As widely anticipated, 99.8 percent of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands’ population voted “Yes” in a referendum on March 10 and 11, expressing their willingness to maintain the current political status as a British Overseas Territory. Of the 1,517 votes cast in the two-day electoral process, only three “No” votes were cast. The results were announced late Monday evening by the Falklands electoral authorities, and were celebrated by local residents in the town hall of the capital city of Stanley.
Argentina considers the archipelago—which it calls Las Malvinas—as part of its territory, which was occupied by Britain more than 180 years ago. Following the vote, the chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, Gavin Short, asked Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to respect the islands’ decision. British Prime Minister David Cameron also called on Argentina to respect the almost unanimous vote which represents “the clearest possible result” and expression of the islanders’ sovereignty.
Despite the results and a 92 percent voter turnout, Argentine officials dismissed the referendum as a British publicity scheme with no legal validity. The Argentine government has tried for years to incorporate the islands to its territory, due to their strategic relevance for international trade and the presence of natural resources such as oil. The results of the referendum confirm that the islands’ 2,841 inhabitants—most of which are British by birth—prefer to retain their British nationality. The Argentine Senate will vote this week on a motion to reject the referendum.