Falkland Islanders vote overwhelmingly to stay British


Falkland Islands flags fly during the referendum.



Residents of the Falkland Islands have voted overwhelmingly to keep them a British overseas territory in a historic referendum. 

More than 90 percent of residents of the Falkland Islands turned out for the two-day vote amid snow flurries and near zero temperatures, the Guardian reported.

Only three votes were cast against the islands remaining a British territory - with 1,513 votes in favor out of 1,517 total cast.

Cahal Milmo, a correspondent for the UK's Independent newspaper who is reporting from the islands, described the festive scene in the island's main town. "The waterfront in Port Stanley resembled a town preparing celebrations for a royal wedding party," he told GlobalPost. "Every lamp post is bedecked with the Falklands flag and cars are festooned in red, white and blue bunting and signs reading 'Forever British.'"

He quoted one islander saying: "This is our moment. We've waited a long, long time to be able to show the world who we are and we have a right to exist exactly as we wish to."

After the result was announced, islanders then partied into the night, despite near-freezing temperatures and flurries of snow.

"I'm very happy. Everyone has come together to express ourselves," Kyle Biggs — who guides tourists viewing penguins and battlefield sites from the 1982 war between Argentina and the United Kingdom — told the Guardian.

"I think this is massively significant. It's important to show how much we want to stay British."

More from GlobalPost: Falkland Islands vote in referendum with eye on world

The results were not unexpected but come at a time of increasing pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War.

Britain urged all countries to accept the results of the referendum and "support" the islanders.

Dick Sawle, a member of the island's legislative assembly, told the BBC the vote was an "absolutely phenomenal result".

"What is very clear is that these islands never have belonged to Argentina," he added. "What is also extremely clear to me here, and from the results that we heard tonight, is that they never will do."

Argentina has already declared the referendum results to be illegal.

Buenos Aires claims sovereignty over the tiny archipelago 310 miles from Argentinian shores.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner maintains that the islands have been illegally occupied by "colonial implants" since the 1830s.

About 1,670 British citizens of the Falkland Islands were eligible to vote in the referendum out of a population of about 2,900, according to the BBC.

In Britain, there was muted reaction to the result, which came after newspaper deadlines but had been seen as a foregone conclusion. The fervently patriotic Sun tabloid carried news of the outcome on its website, under the headline "Brit, Brit, hooray in Falklands vote."

Barry Neild reported from London.