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Gibraltar Votes 'Yes' To New Constitution

by Jason Gorringe,, London

05 December 2006

Voters in Gibraltar have accepted a new constitution for the jurisdiction which the government says will give it more autonomy from the United Kingdom over its own internal affairs.

In a referendum held last week, 60.24% of those who turned out voted 'yes' to the new constitution, while 37.75% voted to reject it. 60.4% of Gibraltar's 20,061 registered voters turned out to vote.

The constitution, agreed in April by then UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana, and between Gibraltar's two main political parties later in the year, will see the UK retaining international responsibility for Gibraltar. However, the new constitution cedes certain powers previously in the possession of the British government to Gibraltar, and allows the jurisdiction to have its own independent judiciary.

Caruana had urged Gibraltarians to vote for the new constitution, arguing that a 'Yes' vote would be "a vote for political progress, for dignity and self-government for Gibraltar".

Caruana also rejected the 'No' campaign's assertions that the constitution would weaken the jurisdiction's links with the UK and allow for greater Spanish influence in its affairs as "scaremongering".

"There is absolutely no Spanish dimension here. It is absurd for people to be raising this usual old chestnut of last resort," he stated.

"The new constitution gives us what we want, namely, a British Gibraltar in which our right to self determination is recognised and which is governed by Gibraltarians. That is dignity. That is real democracy. That is a non-colonial relationship with Britain," the Chief Minister added.

The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians are opposed to Spanish sovereignty over the jurisdiction. In a referendum held by the Gibraltar government in November, 2002, nearly 99% of votes were cast against a plan for sovereignty to be shared between Britain and Spain.

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