Thursday, June 04, 2009

Gibraltar voting today in European Parliament elections

For the second time in its history, Gibraltar is today participating in elections for the European Parliament.

Over the next few days, some 375 million voters in 27 countries will go to the polls across Europe.

Gibraltar is part of the South West England Region constituency which also includes the Scilly Isles.

Writing in the Gibraltar Chronicle today, Brian Reyes reports the polling stations in Gibraltar opened early this morning and will remain open until 10pm tonight.

He recalls how Gibraltar had to fight hard to win the right to vote in European elections. The first time it did so was in 2004, when 57% of voters turned out to cast their ballot papers and included the first ever Gibraltarian, Lyana Armstrong-Emery who stood for election for the Green Party.

That percentage was significantly higher than the average turnout across Europe, which stood at just over 45%.

There are 20,413 eligible voters on the Gibraltar electoral register and officials are hopeful of a high turnout today.

"Despite high-profile canvassing by many candidates over recent weeks", writes Brian Reyes, "yesterday on Main Street there was none of the fevered discussion associated with a general election".

There was a general air of indifference, though some voters were passionately discussing – often in close detail – the pros and cons of voting for any particular party or candidate.

For many voters, the EU election presents them with a confusing array of choices.

At the polling station today, voters will have to pick from a list of 16 parties and candidates that campaigned in the South West region of the UK, the Scilly Isles and of course, Gibraltar, which has been visited recently by the 'big guns' from most of the main parties, including, Douglas Hague for the Conservatives and Simon Hughes from the Liberal Democrats.

Graham Watson MEP, who has been relentless in his support for Gibraltar and its interest in the Strasbourg Parliament during the last five years, particularly on human rights and the environment, also visited to support his local Liberal Democrat colleague and candidate, Jonathan Stagnetto (on the right of the picture with Graham Watson), the only Gibraltarian standing for this election.

It is largely due to Mr Watson, with his support for a Gibraltar candidate, that Gibraltar has its own Gibraltarian representative, in Jonathan Stagnetto, who is standing within the list of the only major party that has shown this important initiative on Gibraltar's behalf.

Some of the other candidates, says the Chronicle report, will be well known to everyone, including the three main UK political parties, while others may be more obscure. Still others will be known for different reasons, including one independent candidate Katie Hopkins who is an English Reality Television contestant, businesswoman and journalist, best known for her 2007 appearance on the third UK series of TV reality programme The Apprentice.

The South West/Gibraltar region has been allocated six MEPs, reduced from seven seats at the last election. The voting system is based on proportional representation and voters must pick just one choice out of the list of 16 on offer.

The party or independent candidate with the most votes will win the first of the six seats.

The subsequent seats will be allocated using a quota system designed to give a chance to parties or candidates with a smaller voter base than the main contenders.

The more seats a party wins, the harder it is to gain extra seats.

That means that the overall allocation of seats is more proportional to the number of votes received.

Parties have presented up to six candidates and each of the seats they win will be allocated in running order.

That means, writes Mr Reyes, "that candidates at the end of their respective lists – for example Jonathan Stagnetto, who is standing with the Liberal Democrats and is the only local candidate – are highly unlikely to win a seat". Quite so... but you never know!

Although the voting is taking place in Gibraltar today, the ballots will not be counted until Sunday evening and the results will not be known until later that night.

Meanwhile, the Gibraltar Government yesterday evening issued a statement that calls on voters in Gibraltar to "participate in the elections by casting a vote".

"In the Government’s view, people in Gibraltar should vote for the party that in their judgement and opinion, is best for Gibraltar, our sovereignty, self-determination and EU interests. This requires an assessment of past record, as well as, the commitment as a party to uphold Gibraltar’s interests in the future."

To my mind... no question who that might be. The Liberal Democrats win hands down... all due to the great work Graham Watson the LibDem MEP has done on Gibraltar's behalf at the European Parliament!

I have much enjoyed supporting Jonathan Stagnetto, helping his campaign on his Facebook Group. In a 'thank you' note to the Group last night, Jonathan wrote:

I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you for the tremendous support that you have all given me as the only candidate from Gibraltar contesting these European elections.

It has made life much easier for me to know that so many of you actually took the time to sign-up to this Facebook Group in support of my campaign.

I would also like to thank the Liberal Democrats for having included me on their list. They have shown that only a visionary political party like the Liberal Democrats had the courage to make a commitment of this type and at this level. I have no doubt that this decision to include a Gibraltarian in their list has made these elections more relevant to Gibraltar. It has proven the Liberal Democrat commitment to Gibraltar, particularly that of current MEP Graham Watson and his team.

I urge all of you who are eligible, to go out tomorrow, Thursday 4th June and vote Liberal Democrat!

Hopefully this campaign can prove to be the prelude to greater Gibraltarian involvement in Europe and a greater participation in future European elections.

Thanks again for your support!!

I think Jonathan has fulfilled his wishes. He has conducted a very dignified campaign and, in my somewhat biased view admittedly, I think he has "made these elections more relevant to Gibraltar". It's certainly proven the Liberal Democrat's and Graham Watson's commitment to Gibraltar, that's for sure.

For myself... it has been a pleasure and a privilege to help, albeit in a small way and I offer the Liberal Democrats in Gibraltar and Jonathan Stagnetto in particular, my very best wishes for the future, whatever the outcome is in Sunday's result!

You can follow the Election and view the results when they are announced here: BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Election 09


Pippa said...

Just been to vote. A constant stream of people voting. Hope we voted in Gibraltar's interests.

Kate/roughseas/pippa :D