Gibraltar calls elections for November 26

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo speaks during an interview with AFP in his Convent Place office, Gibraltar on August 14, 2013 (AFP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

Gibraltar (AFP) - Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who has taken an assertive approach to relations with Spain, on Monday called a general election in the disputed British territory for November 26.

Picardo said in a televised address that he would seek to stand again for the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP), which has governed the "Rock" in an alliance with the smaller Liberal Party since 2011.

"I will be offering my name to the executive committee of the GSLP to serve you again as your Chief Minister for another four years, should you so wish," he said.

Gibraltar's only opposition party, the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD), are led by local barrister and former justice minister Daniel Feetham.

Picardo has presided over a relatively prosperous period for Gibraltar, a 6.7-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) peninsula on the southern tip of Spain that is home to about 30,000 people, overseeing growth of the key electronic gambling industry and offshore finance sector.

But he has had several clashes with Spain, which has a centuries-old claim over Gibraltar's sovereignty and until recently imposed sanctions and restrictions. From 1969 to 1985 Gibraltar's land border and communications were cut off by Spain.

Picardo and Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party have argued over the smuggling of cheap cigarettes from Gibraltar into Spain, the territory's low-tax regime and Gibraltar's decision to sink spiked concrete blocks into the sea in July 2013.

Gibratar's government said the move was aimed at creating an artificial reef in the disputed waters around the territory but Spain said it was intendend to prevent Spanish fishermen from casting their nets in the area.

Madrid then tightened its border checks with Gibraltar, causing queues lasting several hours for workers and tourists crossing between Gibraltar and southern Spain.

Picardo accused Spain at the time of acting like North Korea and said "hell will freeze over" before the authorities in Gibraltar removed the artificial reef.

His GSLP has seven seats in the 17-seat parliament and the Liberal Party has three. The opposition GSD has seven seats.

Gibraltar's election will come less than a month before Spain goes to the polls in a general election which could lead to a government in Madrid with a more conciliatory stance towards the British territory.

Spain's ruling Popular Party enjoys an absolute majority in parliament but recent polls show it is is running neck-and-neck with the main opposition Socialist Party which has in the past taken a softer stance with the territory.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-British.

Gibraltar is self-governing in all areas except defence and foreign policy.