16th September 2019, 11:57
A general election has been called for Thursday the 17th of October - one month and one day away.
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, handed in a written request to the Governor to dissolve Parliament, on Monday morning.
Speaking at a press conference, he said Gibraltar needed a government with a renewed mandate, as well as settled and strong leadership, going into Brexit.
He said the 17th of October is the same date as the next meeting of the European Council, which he said would helpfully bring a bit more certainty regarding Brexit. He said the planned departure from the European Union was one of the key factors in fixing the date of the election, especially given there could be elections in UK and Spain soon.
The leader of the GSLP-Liberal alliance said work on international lobbying would continue despite the election being called. He said he will travel when necessary, adding Joseph Garcia was away at the annual party conference of the Liberal Democrats and is expected to host its leader Jo Swinson later today.
GBC understands the date of the election had been a closely guarded secret, with some Government Ministers finding out just hours before the public announcement was made.
Mr Picardo said Brexit requires strong and proven leadership, claiming Gibraltar is ready for any type of Brexit or no Brexit. The recently published UK government report Yellowhammer claimed Gibraltar had failed to invest in contingency infrastructure, had not passed all the necessary legislation, and had planned for less "significant" delays at the frontier than the UK predicts. But Mr Picardo said the Yellowhammer briefings were outdated, as they had been based on the situation leading to the first Brexit date of the 29th of March, claiming his Government had addressed the matters raised in the report in detail.
In an attempt to put down his opponents, he said it was not the time for novices or ‘has beens’, for political experiments or political spent forces. Mr Picardo said it was a time for the ‘tried and tested’. He hailed what he said was ‘unprecedented levels of investment in education’, health, sport and new homes.
The leader of the GSLP-Liberal alliance confirmed he will be putting his name forward and said the rest of the Government Ministers will today confirm whether or not they intend to put their names forward to the alliance’s respective executives and party members.
Keith Azopardi told GBC the party he leads has been preparing for an election for months. He said it had come as no surprise and the GSD is ‘ready to go’. He highlighted Brexit as an issue which will require an ‘experienced’ and ‘competent’ team to navigate.
The GSD leader also highlighted housing, the environment, health and public services as areas that are likely to be the focus of significant attention during the election campaign.
He said internal candidates will put their names forward in the next 7 days or so, adding there is currently a higher number of potential candidates than there are places available. It will be for the GSD executive to choose the 10 whose names will make it on to the ballot sheet for October the 17th.
Marlene Hassan Nahon told GBC her party Together Gibraltar has been ready for an election for some time. Last month it completed the process of selecting its 10 candidates. She emphasized the candidates had been ‘democratically selected’ by the party membership.
Ms Hassan Nahon said Together Gibraltar is currently crowd funding, as transparency and taking a strong stance against corruption are important to her party. She expects Brexit to continue to be a dominant factor in the coming weeks. She also highlighted housing as a key election issue: ‘people have big issues with housing’.
Ms Hassan Nahon said Together Gibraltar hopes to run a clean and ‘positive campaign full of ideas’, while acknowledging that activists cannot be fully controlled.