2013 Falkland Islands sovereignty referendum

A referendum on political status was held in the Falkland Islands on 10–11 March 2013.[1][2][3] The Falkland Islanders were asked whether or not they supported the continuation of their status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in view of Argentina's call for negotiations on the islands' sovereignty.[4]

2013 Falkland Islands sovereignty referendum

10–11 March 2013

Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?
Votes  %
Yes 1,513 99.80%
No 3 0.20%
Valid votes 1,516 99.87%
Invalid or blank votes 2 0.13%
Total votes 1,518 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 1,650 92%

On a turnout of 92%, 99.8% voted to remain a British territory, with only three votes against.[5] Had the islanders rejected the continuation of their current status, a second referendum on possible alternatives would have been held.[4] Brad Smith, the leader of the international observer group, announced that the referendum was free and fair and executed in accordance with international standards and international laws.[6]



Negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands took place between Argentina and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s, but no agreement was ever reached. In 1982 the Argentine military junta, which ruled Argentina at the time, invaded and occupied the islands, beginning the Falklands War at the end of which the islands came back under British control. Since the war, Argentina has continued to call for the resumption of negotiations, but the United Kingdom refuses such requests, stating that the Falkland Islanders have the right to self-determination.[7]

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the war, the Falkland Islands Association and the Marplan Institute conducted the Falkland Island Sovereignty Survey of all registered voters on the islands, the result of which showed that 96.45% of the islanders supported remaining a British territory.[8] Eight years later, in an Argentine-inspired poll, 87% of the islanders rejected any form of discussion of sovereignty in any circumstances, preferring to remain British.[9]

Recent tensions

Tensions over the status of the islands began to increase with approach of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war and the decision of the Falkland Islands government to start oil exploration in Falklands territorial waters.[10] This led to the government of Argentina banning Falklands flagged ships and vessels linked to the Falklands' oil industry from docking at Argentine ports.[11] The Argentine government also began a diplomatic campaign, calling on several international groups to support the resumption of negotiations, gaining support from organisations such as the Union of South American Nations[12] and the Rio Group.[13]

In 2011 the Argentine Defence minister, Arturo Puricelli, stated that the Falkland Islanders were kept as "hostages" on the islands[14] and later suggested that the British military "is the only element that upholds the usurpation of that part of our national territory".[15] This led to the Governor of the Falkland Islands, Nigel Haywood, proposing a referendum to see whether islanders want to remain British or not "so we can solve the issue once and for all".[16]

Announcement and responses

On 12 June 2012, Gavin Short, a Member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, announced the intention of the Falkland Islands Government to hold a referendum in the first half of 2013, saying that:

We have thought carefully about how to convey a strong message to the outside world that expresses the views of the Falklands people in a clear, democratic and incontestable way. So we have decided, with the full support of the British Government, to hold a referendum on the Falkland Islands to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes.[17]

He made the announcement during a visit to the islands by Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. Browne supported the holding of the referendum, calling it a "truly significant moment", saying that "It will give the Falkland Islands people the opportunity to send a clear message... that the Islanders, and they alone are masters of their fate."[1] British Prime Minister David Cameron said that his Government supported the holding of the referendum and would "respect and defend" the result.[18]

The Argentine government said the outcome of the referendum would not affect the country's claim to the islands. Daniel Filmus, chairman of the Argentine Senate Foreign Affairs committee, said it "does not change at all the Argentine position",[19] while Guillermo Carmona, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Argentina's Chamber of Deputies, said "This has no value at all since Argentina rejects the possibility of self-determination for an implanted population, such as the implanted British population in the Malvinas".[19]

At the 2012 G-20 Mexico summit Cameron confronted Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner and called on her to respect the referendum, while she said that the issue should be resolved in line with United Nations General Assembly resolution 40/21 November 1985.[20][21] President Kirchner had earlier refused an invitation from the Falkland Islands Government to speak with a delegation of islanders.[22]

On 28 November 2012, it was reported that Argentina had launched a campaign to "undermine the legitimacy" of the referendum.[23] This consisted of dissuading British politicians from acting as observers in the referendum, and sending two diplomats on a tour of the Caribbean and Africa to argue for Argentina's claim to the islands and convince governments of the "inconvenience" of sending observers to monitor the referendum.[23] During a visit to London on 6 February 2013 the Argentine Foreign minister, Hector Timerman, claimed that the Falkland Islanders "do not exist" as such, they are British citizens in disputed islands.[24]

Referendum details

The current political status of the Falkland Islands is that of an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The Islands are internally self-governing, with the United Kingdom being responsible for defence and foreign affairs. Under Chapter 1 of the Falkland Islands Constitution, the people of the Falkland Islands have the right to self-determination. The referendum was called following Argentina's calls for negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and was undertaken to consult the people regarding their views on the political status of the Falkland Islands.[25]

The final wording of the question was proposed by the Legislative Assembly in October 2012 and adopted by the Executive Council on 21 November 2012.[26][27] The question posed by the referendum was:

Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom? YES or NO[28]

In order to vote in the referendum, electors had to be resident in the islands, aged 18 or over and have Falkland Islands status.[29] According to the 2012 census, 11% of the electorate were not born in either the Falkland Islands or the UK; this included 13 Argentine-born electors.[30][31] Polls were open from 10:00 to 18:00 FKST (UTC−3) on Sunday 10 and Monday 11 March 2013 in the two constituencies of the islands (Stanley and Camp).[32]


Following the announcement of the referendum, British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jeremy Browne, said that the Falkland Islands Government would invite independent international observers to verify the outcome of the referendum.[17] The Referendum International Observation Mission during the referendum was led by Brad Smith from the United States and included representatives from Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and New Zealand.[33] Following the declaration of the results, Smith announced "the international observation mission has concluded that the voting process was executed in accordance with international standards and local laws. The process was technically sound, with a systematic adherence to established voting procedures... It is our finding that the Falkland Islands referendum process was free and fair, reflecting the democratic will of the voters of the Falkland Islands."[34]


The results were announced by Keith Padgett, the Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands, at 22:40 FKST (UTC−3), in Stanley Town Hall.[6] The high vote to remain a British territory was widely expected, with even the small Argentine population on the islands saying they would vote 'Yes'.[35] Several commentators, including the BBC's correspondent Caroline Wyatt, had anticipated a fairly large 'No' vote from islanders who wanted a second referendum on independence.[36] However, out of the 1,518 ballots cast, only three voters were against keeping the islands' current status. Turnout was over 90% with 1,650 islanders eligible to vote in a population of 2,841.[37][38] It is possible that at least one of the three people that voted 'No' did so out of a desire for full independence.[39] There was one blank and one invalid votes each, the latter coming from a voter who both ticked the Yes box and crossed the No one. Despite recognizing the intent for a yes vote, the officials considered it invalid, as the rules written directly above on the ballot clearly forbade making signs in both boxes. Around twenty to thirty "doubtful" votes with signs others than ticks or crosses in the yes box were examined during the count, and deemed valid yes votes.[40]

Shortly after the vote was announced several islanders gathered in Victory Green, in the centre of Stanley, to celebrate the result.[35]

Referendum results
Choice Votes  %
Yes 1,513 99.80
No 3 0.20
Valid votes 1,516 99.87
Invalid or blank votes 2 0.13
Total votes 1,518 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 1,650 92.00
Source: Falkland Islands Government, Final report


Following the declaration, British Prime Minister David Cameron said "the Falkland Islanders have spoken so clearly about their future, and now other countries right across the world, I hope, will respect and revere this very, very clear result."[37] Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner rejected the result and described the referendum as a "parody", saying "It is as if a consortium of squatters had voted on whether to continue illegally occupying a building."[41]

On 18 April 2013, U.S. Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart introduced a resolution to the United States House of Representatives calling on the United States Government to officially recognise the referendum result. The resolution was cosponsored by 18 Republican and 7 Democratic members of the House and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs without a vote.[42]

See also


  1. "Falkland Islands to hold referendum on political future". Penguin News. 12 June 2012. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  2. "Electoral Commission to assist with Falklands referendum". Penguin News. 30 August 2012. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  3. "Falklands' March 10/11 referendum, a democratic exercise of self-determination". MercoPress, South Atlantic News Agency. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  4. "Falkland Islands referendum question proposed". Penguin News. 1 November 2012. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  5. Falklands referendum: Voters choose to remain UK territory BBC News, 12 March 2013
  6. "Falklands Vote 98.8% Yes". Falkland Islands News Network. 12 March 2013. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  7. "Falkland Islanders 'must decide own future', says Hague". BBC News. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  8. Falkland Islands, 2 April 1986: Status Direct Democracy (in German)
  9. "Country Profile: Falkland Islands". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 13 April 2007. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013. An Argentine-inspired poll, conducted in 1994, revealed that 87% of them would be against any form of discussion with Argentina over sovereignty in any circumstances.
  10. "Drilling for oil begins off the Falkland Islands". BBC News. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  11. "Argentina's noose on Falklands: Buenos Aires province bans UK flagged vessels". MercoPress. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  12. "Unasur delivers statement supporting Argentina's Falklands claim to Ban-ki-moon [sic]". MercoPress. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  13. "Rio Group supports Argentina in Falklands/Malvinas dispute". MercoPress. 4 March 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  14. "Argentine election fever: minister accuses UK of keeping hostage "2000 Falklands' Islanders"". MercoPress. 29 June 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  15. "Argentina shows off jet model and calls on UK to dialogue on Falklands' sovereignty". MercoPress. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  16. "Falklands open to UN referendum to decide whether Islanders want to remain British". MercoPress. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  17. "Falkland Islands plan referendum 'to send a message to Argentina'". The Daily Telegraph. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  18. "Falklands: David Cameron defends islanders over planned referendum". The Guardian. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  19. "Falklands' referendum has "no value" and does not change Argentina's position". MercoPress. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  20. "Respect the Falklanders, David Cameron tells Cristina Kirchner in row". The Daily Telegraph. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  21. "British PM refuses letter on Falklands from Argentine President". Penguin News. 19 June 2012. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  22. "President Kirchner refuses invitation to talk to people of the Falkland Islands". Penguin News. 18 June 2012. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  23. Strange, Hannah (28 November 2012). "Argentina 'launches campaign to undermine Falklands referendum'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  24. "There is no such thing as Falkland Islanders: they are British citizens in disputed islands". MercoPress. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  25. "Q&A: Falkland islanders referendum". BBC News Website. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  26. "Falklands' proposed referendum question enters public consultation period". MercoPress. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  27. "Referendum on Political Status - update" (PDF). Executive Council of the Falkland Islands. Falkland Islands Government. 21 November 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  28. "Falkland islanders asked to send message to Argentina over sovereignty". The Telegraph. 3 November 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  29. "Q&A: Falkland islanders referendum". BBC News. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  30. "Falklands Referendum: Voters from many countries around the world voted Yes". MercoPress. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  31. "Correction to SAC Falklands Referendum Report". MercoPress. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  32. "Malvinas islanders to vote on sovereignty referendum". Xinhua News Agency. 10 March 2013. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  33. "Falklands' referendum observation mission has representatives from seven countries". MercoPress. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  34. "Observation mission praises Falklanders on referendum process and their democratic will". MercoPress. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  35. "Clear message to Argentina: 99.8% of Falkland Islanders want to stay British". MercoPress. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  36. "Falkland Islanders on referendum". BBC News. 10 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  37. "Falklands: Cameron says Argentina should respect vote". BBC News. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  38. "Headline results of 2012 Falkland Islands Census released". Falkland Islands Government. 10 September 2012. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  39. Benedictus, Leo (12 March 2013). "Who were the three Falkland Islanders who voted no?". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  40. Willett, Peter (June 2013). A Report on the Referendum on the Political Status of the Falkland Islands (Report).
  41. Ford, Dana; Shoichet, Catherine E.; Smith-Spark, Laura. "Argentina's president calls Falklands vote 'parody'". CNN. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  42. Diaz-Balart, Mario (7 June 2013). "H.Res.170 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): Recognizing the Falkland Islands referendum in favor of retaining their status as a British Overseas Territory". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
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