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The Gibraltar 2019 Elections: What the Parties Say

Chris Gomez . Graphic: Silvia Quintanilla

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections: What the Parties Say

As soon as notice was given of the General Election to be held in Gibraltar on the 17th of October 2019, we reached out to the parties and subsequently independents who will be contesting the 17 seats in the Gibraltar Parliament.

The Government will be formed by those who command a majority of seats. Contesting the election this year are the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP) / Liberal Alliance (“The Alliance”) who have been in government since 2011 (previously the GSLP under Sir. Joe Bossano had been in Government from 1988 to 1996), the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD) who were in government from 1996 – 2011, and a new party called Together Gibraltar (TG), which is led by Marlene Hassan Nahon.

Two independents are running this year; Robert Vasquez QC who recently resigned from the GSD executive and is standing as an independent social democrat and J.C. Pons, an environmentalist.

Reach has received very detailed responses to our questions and because of the interest they will have among our readership, these will be posted in full in the coming days.

What follows are summaries aimed to assist our readership…

The Objectives

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections

We asked the contenders to set out their vision for the next 4 years.

Keith Azopardi QC, who leads the GSD said that the electorate faces “a philosophical choice between (the GSD) and the GSLP way of doing things”. He identifies Brexit and its consequences as “one of the big issues”, but promises that his team “is strong, competent and has experience”.

Dealing with domestic issues, Mr. Azopardi claims that there is a division between his party and the GSLP when it comes to “issues like financial transparency … public finance” and the economy.

Keith Azopardi Gibraltar General Elections 2019
Keith Azopardi (GSD)

Like all the other parties, he highlights the issue of abortion, which had not been dealt with before as well as environmental issues.

For their part, the GSLP / Liberals say that they have plans to deliver for all generations of Gibraltarians “it is a vision of the best Gibraltar we can be” with continuing dedication to quality of life and the economy and “a mature and responsible defence of the interests of Gibraltar in the increasingly complex international context”.

The leader of the GSLP is Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, QC and the Liberals in the Alliance are led by Dr. Joseph Garcia.

As befits a new party which has erupted forcefully into the local political scene, Together Gibraltar say that they are confident of winning the election and want to implement a “strong reformist agenda” to transform Gibraltar for the better.

Their four main pillars are environmental sustainability and transition to a green economy, equality and civil rights in line with other Western democracies, diversification of the economy, anti-corruption and transparency.

TG warns that Brexit is being used by the government so that “people … vote with fear” and does not believe that Brexit is going to be resolved on the 31st of October.

Cross-Border Relations

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections

Gibraltar Frontier
Gibraltar Frontier @Fran Montes

For the GSLP / Liberals, “the cross-border dynamic is a central feature of Gibraltarian life today, as it has always been”. They allude to the good relationships that they have been able to nurture with successive mayors of La Línea and refer back to the damage caused to communities of both sides by the closure of the Frontier in 1969.

The GSLP / Liberals are committed to the Cordoba process of dialogue in a spirit of cooperation an mutual benefit to Spaniards and to Gibraltarians but reserving the matter of sovereignty over Gibraltar to the Gibraltarians exclusively.

They claim that the Memoranda of Understanding recently signed by the UK and Spain are the model to follow whether or not there is a hard-Brexit.

The GSD reminds that they have always backed tripartite talks from the time that they were in government. “We believe in a much more cooperative kind of politics that advances our interests without needing to compromise our fundamental politics”. They regret the Partido Popular’s abandonment of the Cordoba agreement.

TG want to emphasize neighbourly collaboration and wish to “continue to explore ways of growing together. We believe the flourishing of neighbouring areas can help Gibraltar in terms of the tourism economy and cultural value.” Ms. Hassan Nahon’s party call for a “common front against any measures from the Spanish central government to stifle the prosperity of our area and boycott our bonds.” They call for joint cooperation on the environment.

Promises for the next 4 years

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections

Together Gibraltar say that they have a simple formula based on “better participation, mechanisms of internal democracy and fairness (leading) to better representation”. They say that they have a diverse slate to represent the demographics of Gibraltar and “take power away from an elite that has manipulated power and opportunity for decades: The ‘barristocracy’”.

Marlene Hassan Nahon Gibraltar Elections 2019
Marlene Hassan Nahon

Mr. Azopardi (GSD) refers our readership to the manifesto which his party is in the process of compiling and which he promises will be “an exciting” one. “It will contain … interesting policies on the environment, housing, care, Brexit; there’s going to be things for everyone.”

For their part, the GSLP / Liberals relate back to their performance since 2011. “In the last 4 years we have delivered investment and progress on an unprecedented scale”. They refer to the building of 4,000 new homes, the declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’ and the establishment of the first LNG bunkering operations in Europe. The establishment of close ties, both politically and commercially with the UK, the ongoing creation of public parks and promise to do more to offset the impact of “ambitious building programmes”.

Fabian Picardo Gibraltar Elections 2019 GSLP
Current Cheif Minister Fabian Picardo (GSLP)

The estimate for March 2020 of economic growth to £2.4 billion has already been met and the national debt is at a record low of 13.37% of GDP. Jobs are up by 7% in the last year, and there are currently 29,995 people working in Gibraltar and only 33 unemployed persons.

Pensions are being increased, as is the minimum income guarantee.
The GSLP / Liberals promise more of the same success whilst acknowledging the threats of Brexit which they refer to as “Hell on earth in politics”, but said that “you are never wrong to do the right thing”. The GSLP / Liberals warn against relying on “novices and has-beens”.

Reforms

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections

Again the GSD urge voters to read the manifesto when it is published. Mr Azopardi says that he wants to run a “positive campaign” and not to engage in negative politics with the GSLP, but they will not shy away from criticizing where necessary.

The environment will be a central consideration for the GSLP / Liberals if they should be re-elected “#GreenGibraltar and #SustainableGibraltar” will be key rallying cries. They will also modernize parliamentary procedures and rely on new technology to “modernise democracy” and make public finances more accessible.

Dr. Joseph Garcia (Liberal Party)

The referendum on abortion, which is to be held in March 2020, is, they say, an example of “an important change in the way that laws are passed”. Other areas for improvement are workers’ rights.

They renew their commitment to bring down housing waiting lists and “move Gibraltar to the situation it was in when we left Government in 1996 when there were just 200 people on the list”.

New rental accommodation will be promoted and what the GSLP / Liberals call a “revolution” in education will continue. “This is an incredible legacy which is changing the fabric of education and is also being delivered, hand in hand, with the introduction of tablet learning in our schools.”

Like the GSD, Together Gibraltar promise to have their manifesto online very soon. Issues to look out for include the implementation of a “green transport plan … progressive and equal parental leave legislation, access to reproductive rights in line with human rights law”, improving access to housing, investment in the environment, training and “draconian anti-corruption laws that guarantee independent scrutiny and full disclosure of government expenses.”

INDEPENDENTS

Robert Vasquez

Robert Vasquez Gibraltar Elections 2019
Robert Vasquez QC (Independent)

Robert Vasquez, QC is one of the two independents running for election this year.

He is no newcomer to the political scene, and has been an outspoken proponent of political and constitutional reform for many years. Following his retirement from a highly successful legal career, he studied journalism in England and until very recently, was a member of the executive committee of the GSD.

A plain-speaking individual, he candidly said to GBC TV that he had hoped to have been selected as one the GSD candidates, but as this did not happen he will now be standing on his own to offer the electorate an alternative within the social democratic ideology which he espouses.

He told the broadcaster that he believes “that there is a need for parliamentary electorate reform” and that he believes fervently “that there is a need for an independent body to investigate and deal with corruption in Gibraltar”.

Juan Carlos Pons

Juan Carlos JC Pons Gibraltar Elections 2019
JC Pons (Independent Environmentalist)

Juan Carlos Pons, popularly known as “J.C.” has been an environmental activist for more than a generation. True to his life view, he tells Reach that he is not running for election in order to compete with anyone but to cooperate with all those who love the environment.

He criticises what he calls “competitive party politics” and says that the focus should be on the protection of the future for the younger generations.

An environmental catastrophe would, he says, “be much more serious than anything that Brexit can bring with it”.

Recently he has been working on a “massive tree planting campaign” in Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar with a view to seeding 2 million trees. He has had encouragement from the Gibraltar Government and the Municipality of La Línea. He sees the interests of people on both sides of the border as complimentary and wishes that the people of the region should be allowed to conduct our affairs without interference from London or Madrid: “The environment has no frontiers”.
He expects to publish his manifesto shortly.

The Gibraltar 2019 Elections: What the Parties Say

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