STANLEY, Falkland Islands (AP) — Falkland Islanders on Thursday elected a new government to manage the transition of the small British territory as oil exploration turns to development.
Five members of the Legislative Assembly were selected to represent Stanley, the capital, and three for Camp, which is everywhere else in the South Atlantic territory of mostly remote sheep farms and small settlements.
For the first time, the legislative positions will be full time. Those elected will receive a salary and must quit any other jobs. Officials said 75 percent of Stanley voters participated and just over 85 percent of the Camp constituency cast ballots. That was 1,046 votes in Stanley and 242 for Camp.
The main issues facing the legislators are Argentina's continuing claim to the islands and preparations for the oil wealth expected from offshore drilling. Oil exploration is already pumping millions of dollars into the economy and most islanders seem concerned about the potential for problems from rapid change brought by the new industry.
"Some now, unfortunately, are dazzled by the figures being bandied about, but until commercial oil is actually flowing and royalties being received we must proceed with caution," Jan Cheek, who is one of the five new legislators for Stanley, said in her campaign manifesto.
Michael Poole, another Stanley lawmaker, believes Falklanders need to reach out more to Latin American countries to tell the territory's position and offset Argentina's campaign to get sovereignty. While the Islands are internally self-governing, Britain is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Argentina claims the territory it refers to as the "Islas Malvinas" despite nearly 180 years of British control and a failed occupation 30 years ago.
In a referendum in March, 99.8 percent of Falkland Island voters backed keeping their government as a British Overseas Territory.
Associated Press writers Paul Byrne and Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.