Left grabs power in Gibraltar vote: results

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A new left-leaning government won power in the contested British territory of Gibraltar where voters ousted the right after 15 years' rule, election results showed on Friday.

The vote swept to power 39-year-old barrister Fabian Picardo, who has vowed that Gibraltar's sovereignty is not up for negotiation with Spain, in defiance of incoming Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

The results showed Picardo narrowly won Thursday's election to become chief minister of the territory, an enclave of 30,000 people distinguished by low taxes and its strategic spot at the western neck of the Mediterranean.

His Socialist-Liberal alliance won 49 percent of the vote to 47 percent for the governing Social Democrats, returning officer Melvin Farrell announced. This gave Picardo's bloc 10 of the 17 seats in Gibraltar's parliament.

"We will be a government for the whole of Gibraltar. A new dawn has broken," Picardo said in a victory speech.

Under the defeated centre-right leader Peter Caruana since 1996, Gibraltar has improved its relations with Spain and its economy has grown. He oversaw an end to tax-free offshore status for companies based in Gibraltar.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. Britain refuses to renounce sovereignty against the wishes of Gibraltarians.

Britain remains responsible for defence and foreign affairs, but Gibraltar, with its British pubs and red telephone boxes nestled under an imposing cliffside known as the Rock, is now essentially self-governing.

Rajoy, due to take power on December 21 after winning Spain's general election, has said he favours denying Gibraltar the right to vote on its future, and that Spain and Britain alone should decide.

Picardo said before the election: "The policy of a Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party/Liberal Party government is that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not a matter for discussion or negotiation with Spain."

© 2011 AFP

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