|When elections were not contested||13th September 2007|
|In the past, there were sometimes elections that were not contested at all, with the same number of candidates coming forward as there were seats available.
For over two decades in our post-war history, until the emergence of the Integration with Britain Party, Sir Joshua Hassan?s AACR, which is now defunct, was the only political party that contested elections to the City Council and the Legislative Council. They faced mainly independents. A brief challenge from the Commonwealth Party in the mid-1950s was not sustained.
The City Council in Gibraltar was suspended in 1941 after the outbreak of the Second World War, and it was not reconstituted until 1945. In those wartime years the civilian population of Gibraltar, the women, children and the elderly, had been evacuated and the needs of the fortress were deemed to be paramount.
As the people were slowly repatriated, owing in large measure to the pressure exerted by the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (AACR), which had been formed in 1942, it was announced that the first elections to the reconstituted City Council would take place on 24 July 1945.
There were seven seats up for grabs on the City Council, which had a majority of elected members for the first time since its creation in 1921. Each elector had four votes and there were 5300 voters at that time. The AACR won all the elective seats on the Council with Sir Joshua Hassan topping the poll. They were returned unopposed at the next elections.
When the Legislative Council, the forerunner of the House of Assembly, was set up in 1950, it was made up of five elected members and five nominated members, with the Governor presiding and having a casting vote. Given the clean sweep of AACR seats in the City Council elections, the colonial authorities decided that the system of election for the Legislature would be the single transferable vote of proportional representation.
This meant that people would vote by placing a number next to their preferred candidates in order of preference. This means the number 1 next to their first choice, the number 2 next to their second choice and so on all the way down the list if they wanted to. This was a different system to the City Council elections and confusion reigned between the two systems until the City Council was abolished in 1969 and merged into what became the House of Assembly.
The first elections to the Legislative Council were held in November 1950. The AACR put forward four candidates for the five seats, after their fifth candidate was forced to withdraw by his employers. They were headed by Joshua Hassan and Albert Risso. They were faced by five independent candidates.
On a 53% poll, Francis Panayotti, Albert Risso and Joshua Hassan were elected in that order. They were followed by Major Joseph Patron. More importantly, Albert Isola topped the poll. This was the only election contested by Sir Joshua Hassan where he did not top the poll, and the AACR pointed to the problems associated with proportional representation as the reason for this.
On 6 December 1950, the first contested elections since 1945 to the City Council took place. There were seven seats to be filled. The AACR returned all their four candidates and three of the seven independents who stood were elected.
Given the proximity between legislative and municipal elections, it was logical that there should be confusion amongst voters as to which system of voting applied in each case. The same thing happened in 1953. The elections to the five seats on the legislature took place on 16 September. The AACR only put forward three candidates this time, and all three were elected with Hassan topping the poll. Two of the four independents who stood were elected, Sergio Triay and Albert Isola.
Within three months, on 2 December 1953 the elections to the City Council took place. On a 50% turnout, five AACR candidates and two independents were returned for the seven seats.
The tragic death of Sergio Triay led to a by-election for the Legislature which took place on 4 October 1954. It was contested by John Alcantarra for the AACR, Solomon Seruya and Juan Jose Triay under the system of proportional representation. Alcantarra won on the first round of votes and held on by 57 votes after Seruya?s second preference votes were distributed between Triay and himself.
In 1955 there was a constitutional crisis after the Governor used his reserve powers to push through the legislature fiscal measures that had been rejected by the representatives of the people. On the resolution of the crisis, there was a by-election for the five vacant seats, to which the members who had resigned were elected unopposed.
In July 1956 the UK agreed to establish an elected majority on the Legislative Council. There would be seven elected members, two appointed members and a Speaker would replace the Governor when a suitable person could be found.
The elections took place, under PR, on 19 September 1956. There were seven seats and ten candidates, with the recently formed Commonwealth Party contesting an election for the first time. Four AACR candidates were voted in, along with Juan Jose Triay for the Commonwealth Party. Among the independents, the late Peter Isola was elected for the first time. He stood with his father Albert who curiously was not elected himself that time round. The City Council elections took place within three months on 5 December 1956. Five AACR candidates came forward, Guy Stagnetto and Louis Bruzon for the Commonwealth Party, and three independents. Electors had four votes to fill seven seats. On a 40% turnout, all the AACR candidates were elected with Hassan topping the poll. Guy Stagnetto, who came seventh for the Commonwealth Party, kept out Louis Bruzon by 22 votes.
There was a by-election for two seats on the Legislative Council on 29 May 1957. Juan Jose Triay had vacated his seat in protest at the silence adopted by the others on the Spanish visa restrictions issue, and John Alcantarra (AACR) had resigned to take up the post of Registrar in the Supreme Court. The AACR put forward Aurelio Montegriffo, the Commonwealth Party put forward Alfred Vasquez and Ernest Russo stood as an independent. Montegriffo was elected in first place followed by Russo. Alfred Vasquez was not elected and resigned from the Commonwealth Party soon afterwards. The party folded.
The legislative elections of 23 September 1959 saw 13 candidates contest 7 seats. There were 4 AACR candidates, 4 TGWU and 5 independents. On a 66% turnout, 3 AACR candidates and 4 independents were elected. These were followed closely again by the City Council elections which took place on 2 December 1959 and at which all the candidates were elected unopposed being five AACR and two independents.
On 25 January 1961 there was a by-election to the City Council after the death of J C Cavilla. Only 27% of the 13,000 electorate turned up to vote in Aurelio Montegriffo for the AACR, who was opposed by Anthony Baldorino for the TGWU. The full elections to the City Council took place on 5 December 1962 and there were eight candidates for seven seats. Five of them stood under the AACR banner and the other three were independents. In a poll of only 29.5%, the lowest in City Council history, four AACR members and three independents were elected.
The Landsdowne Constitution of 1964 had bestowed the Gibraltarians with ministerial Government for the first time. There were 11 seats on the Legislature to be filled at the first elections called for 10 September 1964. It was the first time that the people of Gibraltar went to the polls to elect a Government from the 15 candidates who stood. Five AACR and six independents were elected, and after negotiations with Peter Russo, an independent, Sir Joshua Hassan formed the first elected Government of Gibraltar and became the Rock?s first Chief Minister.
The elections to the City Council followed on 1 December 1965. Nine candidates came forward for the seven vacant seats. Four AACR and three independents were elected. These were to be the last elections to the City Council.
In the same way, the last elections to the Legislative Council took place on 23 May 1968 when a seat was vacated. The ensuing by-election was a straight fight between the AACR and the Integration with Britain Party. The latter has been formed as the Pro-Integration Movement (PIM) in 1965 and it became a political party on 9 February 1967. The by-election was won by Emilio Alvarez for the AACR over Major Robert Peliza of the IWBP with only 145 votes difference between them.
As a result of the 1969 Constitution, the City Council and Legislative Councils were merged to form the Gibraltar House of Assembly. The City Council method of voting was chosen as the voting system for the new representative chamber, which would have fifteen elected seats and two ex-officio members appointed by the United Kingdom.
Taken from the book Gibraltar the Making of a People by Dr Joseph Garcia - On sale at leading bookshops
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