Gibraltar’s political parties have all called on the electorate to participate in the forthcoming European parliamentary elections set to take place next week, highlighting the importance of the vote against the backdrop of Brexit.
Whilst the Gibraltar Government has not advised Gibraltarian voters to back a specific party, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said that as these elections are taking place against the context of the potential departure of the UK and Gibraltar from the EU, it is “all the more important that people should go to the polling stations to cast their vote”.
Dr Garcia also underlined the fact that Gibraltar had to fight for the right to vote in EU elections.
“It will be recalled that Gibraltar was originally excluded from the franchise for European elections,” he said.
“This was only extended to us after a lengthy political and legal battle which saw the United Kingdom being taken to the European Court of Human Rights in order to rectify the situation.”
“These elections are taking place against the immediate context of the potential departure of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar from the European Union, which makes it all the more important that people should go to the polling stations to cast their vote.”
Additionally, both the GSD and Together Gibraltar have encouraged the electorate to back parties that clearly advocate remaining in the EU or support a People’s Vote at the forthcoming European elections.
The elections, which take place on Thursday May 23, are unlike elections to the Gibraltar Parliament, as voters will only have one vote.
In a statement the GSD said: “The reality is that the UK’s participation in elections to the EU Parliament and therefore Gibraltar’s has only been made inevitable because of the severe divisions on how and whether to exit the EU which is evident in the UK Parliament.”
It is unclear at this stage whether any MEPs elected for the UK will take up their seats and if so for how long as the current Brexit end date is October 31, 2019, the party added.
“However as events over the last few months have proved there are twists and turns in this political soap opera that may still deliver what was previously an unforeseeable result. We must continue to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
GSD Leader, Keith Azopardi said: “The people of Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. The GSD have long had a policy that if Brexit becomes inevitable we should make the most of it and ensure we get the best transitional deal possible and the best future relationship with the EU.”
“We are not yet past the point of no return, however, and other options remain on the table in a very deadlocked UK Parliament that could either avert Brexit altogether or provide for a softer exit. In that context the GSD was the first political party in Gibraltar to back the move to have a People’s Vote with the options of choosing between the flawed Withdrawal Agreement and remaining in the EU.
“We must remember that getting the right to vote in European elections was a hard won right for Gibraltar and required our taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights in the 1990s. We should not abstain from participating because we are dissatisfied with the EU or BREXIT. Whatever its failings it is still better for our economic and political future for us to remain in the EU.
We should view this as an opportunity to send a strong message as a united Gibraltar.”
“We therefore urge the people of Gibraltar to send a strong signal of where we stand as a community and support political parties that have a clear commitment to remaining in the EU or a People’s Vote. There is no guarantee of what will happen in the next few months but we must continue to do what we can towards the outcome that best makes sense for Gibraltar. So we would like to see high participation and a clear message.”
So far the Liberal Democrats and Change UK have come out clearly for both remaining and for a People’s Vote. The Labour Party position is more nuanced.
On a separate point the GSD has condemned the “inflammatory, racist, sexist and intolerant remarks” of Carl Benjamin the prospective UKIP candidate for Gibraltar.
“That kind of language and attitude is repugnant, unacceptable and totally out of place with what we want for our society in Gibraltar,” it said.
For its part, Together Gibraltar also urged the electorate to cast their vote for parties which have been clear about their remain agendas, and their desire for a second referendum.
The main contenders on this side of the debate are Change UK, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, the party said.
“Any candidates from any of these parties who acquire seats in the European Parliament will be worthy and passionate ambassadors for our common cause to remain in the European Union,” the party said in a statement.
“With regards to the Liberal Democrats’ own slate, it is of importance to note that one of their candidates is a Gibraltarian -Luke Stagnetto- who will surely be an influencer to his party on matters relating to Gibraltar and our collective needs in Brussels,” it added.
The deadline for voter registration has already passed as has the deadline to register as a postal voter.
However, it is still possible to register to vote by proxy. This means that anyone who is unable to vote in person on 23 May can nominate somebody else to go and vote for them.
The closing date to register to vote by proxy is tomorrow Wednesday May 15 at 5pm.