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  1. Newstatesman Gibraltar
10 November 2015

Use your vote

The Gibraltar election will be on 26 November – and regular contributor Mark Montegriffo is concerned about people failing to take part.

By Mark E Montegriffo

When we vote, we can make government better or worse. In turn, our votes can make people’s lives better or worse”.

The Gibraltar general election on the 26th November 2015 promises to be one of the most interesting the Rock has seen. For the first time, 2 rival parties will contest the election; offering opposing directions for Gibraltar’s future. However, the lack of diversity and option when it comes to political parties has lead to a large portion of ‘undecideds’ in local polls, consistently making up over half of the poll result.

While it is highly unlikely that this will remain through until the day of the election, there is a worry that this election might break Gibraltar’s incredible record of voter turnout. Therefore it is important to discuss what it would mean to refrain from voting, especially in such a decisive election.

The election is decisive simply because of the competing policies of the two political hegemons as well as the developments since the last election. The most notable policy difference comes from the area of national energy supply and the bunkering of liquified natural gas, which has been subject to various contradictory safety reports.

The GSD oppose LNG at the North Mole, so close and such a potentially fatal danger to thousands of residents on the west side of the Rock and the town area, in favour of a previous deal that was later cancelled by the GSLP/Liberal Government that would have installed a diesel power facility at Lathbury Barracks to fuel Gibraltar’s energy.

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On the other hand, the party in Government reject the health and safety hazards raised by the GSD. While they accept that nothing would be completely safe, the chances of a fatal accident occurring are so small that it is worth taking the risk so that Gibraltar can have an energy source. In a strange twist, the GSLP/Liberals have recently supported a GSD position to consider an energy deal with Morocco.

These debates also take the shape of the future of education, public finances and training for employment. Access to each party’s views on each of these issues can be found online. The party that the electorate chooses will have a great effect on the direction of Gibraltar, one way or the other. This is why your vote becomes more vital than ever.

Additionally, the development of both parties since the last election has been riveting. The GSLP/Liberal Alliance has opted for a very similar candidate sheet as last time out, with the exception of the late Charles Bruzon, with Albert Isola winning his seat at the 2013 by-election. Indeed, Joe Bossano, Chief Minister from 1988-1996 and self-proclaimed ‘father of my party’, will once again seek re-election. He remarked earlier in the year that he ‘won’t pursue a new career until I’m 90’.

Whereas the GSD have opted for a very different line-up. Only two of the 10 candidates presented at this election have stood for the GSD previously in a general election. The party has highlighted its concern over public finances and has opted for candidates who have had successful careers in the broader area of finance such as Roy Clinton and Chris White, and the parliamentary reform campaigner, Robert Vazquez. Trevor Hammond and Marlene Hassan Nahon have also settled in quickly to the party, tackling the Government on a range of issues.

The idea that blank voting will have more of an effect on the political system than voting is a misconception, especially in Gibraltar where electoral margins are not actually that large – the GSLP Liberal alliance won the previous election by some 200 votes. Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely that a blank vote or a low turnout will influence politicians to adopt more desirable policies because these opt-out ‘votes’ only solidify the political consensus that exists by preserving the incumbent government. Even if it is a case of the lesser evil, your vote is vital at this election. After all, a lesser evil is the first step to a greater good, and you are more likely to influence a lesser evil than a zealous beast.

If you do not vote for a preferred vision, the politicians who win will govern you as if you did not exist. This should not have to be the case but it is one of the tragedies that exist in representative democracies. Politicians will take non-voters as those without an opinion. Have an effect on Gibraltar’s future at vote this November 26th.