x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

An implanted 99.8%

The result in the Falkland Islands referendum isn't all that surprising, given who was voting.

Any election where one side wins 99.8 per cent of the vote is bound to raise eyebrows. That's the kind of "victory" that Hosni Mubarak and Bashar Al Assad used to enjoy at the polls. But while Argentina might embrace the analogy, we can be fairly certain that Falkland Islanders - all but three of them at least - really did cast their vote to remain an overseas British territory.

Why wouldn't they? The majority of islanders are of British extraction, and London waged a nasty war against Argentina in 1982 on their behalf - even though the colony is about 12,000 kilometres from Britain, but less than 500 from Argentina.

There is an uneasy colonial history here. Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, has a point when he discounts the referendum as a publicity stunt, not least because the islanders are an "implanted" population. The Europeans, and later the Argentinians, have a sordid record of grasping for territory in the region.

The squabble, and the war, have been the result of national pride. There may be hydrocarbon fields in the region, but the acrimony has always exceeded rational calculations. In that context, the islanders' 99.8 per cent doesn't seem implausible at all.