Strange twist to Rock saga

14th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 May 2004, GIBRALTAR – Voters in Gibraltar will help decide the outcome of a battle for who sits in the European parliament in south-west England.

14 May 2004

GIBRALTAR – Voters in Gibraltar will help decide the outcome of a battle for who sits in the European parliament in south-west England.

In a strange twist to the Euro election battle next month, voters on The Rock will vote for MEPs in seats in Cornwall and Devon on 13 June, the BBC reported.

It brings the somewhat surreal prospect of a campaign being waged across a thousand miles, from Gibraltar to south-west  England.

The move stems from a European Court of Human Rights ruling in 1999 saying that the Rock's residents should have a say on who gets sent to the European Parliament.

Gibraltar is too small to have its own MEP, and the Electoral Commission decided it should be annexed to the south-west, not London or south-east England.

Paul Morris, the region's returning officer, said votes would be counted in Gibraltar and then phoned across to the mainland.

The Rock will get postal or proxy votes for the first time.

"They have a wonderful system where people who are old and infirm have ballot boxes brought to their houses," said  Morris, explaining such practices were not allowed under the European election rules.

The territory has fewer than 20,000 voters - who will join the rest of the South West's 3.8 million-strong electorate in the June polls.

That has not stopped election candidates from taking the election trail to Gibraltar.

Even Tory leader Michael Howard is planning to visit as part of his campaigning programme.

But Paco Oliba, editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle, said only 10 people turned out for a recent public meeting put on by two Tory candidates.

"It's pretty much of a low-key affair. I think the highlight of the whole event was actually obtaining the right to vote," he said.

"Although there have been visits from some candidates, it's not as though it's a local government election and there's very little interest generally."

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Subject: Spanish news

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