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Fabian Picardo narrowly re-elected leader of Gibraltar

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Fabian Picardo narrowly re-elected leader of Gibraltar
Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party Fabian Picardo speaks during an intreview with AFP in Gibraltar. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP.

Fabian Picardo was sworn in for a fourth consecutive term as leader of Gibraltar Friday after his centre-left alliance narrowly won an election in the tiny British overseas territory.

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His Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP), and the smaller Liberal Party, got 49.9 percent of the vote during Thursday's election, the assembly said on its website.

It thus secured nine of the 17 seats at stake in Gibraltar's parliament, down from 52.5 percent and 10 seats in the last election in 2019.

"This morning we enter government once again because the people of Gibraltar determined that they wanted us to be the ones to get the job done," the 51-year-old barrister told reporters.

"They decided that we were the ones that would keep Gibraltar safe and that we should have the opportunity to once again serve the people of Gibraltar."

Picardo has served as chief minister since 2011. During his campaign for re-election, he had warned that talks on a deal settling the territory's ties with the European Union following Brexit would suffer a setback if his alliance was ousted from power.

Gibraltar is an enclave of around 34,000 people on Spain's southern tip, dubbed "the Rock" because of its famous cliff-faced mountain.

Known for its low taxes and its strategic spot at the western neck of the Mediterranean, it has been in limbo since Britain's withdrawal from the EU in 2020 left it outside the bloc's customs union and without guaranteed free movement of people.

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Pubs and red telephone boxes

Under a temporary agreement, Spain has granted free border passage to workers and tourists to avoid disruption, but this could be rescinded at any time.

The talks are aimed at agreeing a common travel area between Gibraltar and the Schengen passport-free zone, which covers most of the EU's member states along with four other European nations.

With the protocol on Northern Ireland agreed by London and Brussels earlier this year, Gibraltar is now the last British territory without a deal clarifying its future relationship with the EU.

The British territory relies on around 15,000 workers -- most of them European, making up half of Gibraltar's workforce -- who cross the land border with EU member Spain every day.

Fluidity at the border is also key for tourism in a territory that welcomes millions of visitors every year.

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The centre-right Gibraltar Social Democrats, led by Keith Azopardi, won 48.0 percent of the vote, giving them eight seats in Gibraltar's parliament.

Turnout was 76.41 percent, up from 70.84 percent during the last election in 2019.

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 remains responsible for its defence and foreign affairs but Gibraltar, with its British pubs and red telephone boxes, is now essentially self-governing.

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