surinenglish

24 March 1988: Gibraltar elects Joe Bossano as Chief Minister

Bossano with his distinctive glasses and moustache.
Bossano with his distinctive glasses and moustache. / SUR
  • Opposition politicians, who cast their vote early, warned that a victory for Bossano, as predicted by the exit polls, would mean a deterioration in Hispano-British relations.

With a turnout of around 74 per cent, Gibraltarians voted in Joe Bossano, with his distinctive moustache and large-framed glasses, as their new Chief Minister on 24 March 1988. Many voters waited until after work to cast their votes with queues forming into the streets due to stepped-up security following the death of three IRA militants gunned down on Gibraltarian soil by British Special Forces earlier that month.

Opposition politicians, who cast their vote early, warned that a victory for Bossano, as predicted by the exit polls, would mean a deterioration in Hispano-British relations.

During his election campaign, Bossano's Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, which he formed as the Gibraltar Democratic Movement in 1975, called for self-determination, expressed its opposition to the negotiations being carried out bilaterally between Spain and the United Kingdom over the future of Gibraltar, and opposed any transfer of sovereignty, joint or otherwise.

Bossano, alongside then Chief Minister Joshua Hassan, also led the biggest protest the Rock has ever seen, mobilising some 12,000 people against the agreement reached between Spain and the UK over the joint use of the airport.

Despite cordial relations on a municipal level with Gibraltar's neighbours, Bossano took a firm stance in his quest for self governance and shut down 'the Spanish question' at every opportunity. In fact, he won reelection in 1992 (with 72 per cent of the vote) on the slogan 'Give Spain No Hope' at a time when politicians in London and Madrid were increasingly open to the idea of a solution to the 300-year-old dispute.

Bossano also oversaw the regeneration of the country's economy with the creation of a private sector economy based on offshore finance and tourism and, through the provision of affordable housing, encouraged Gibraltarians to buy homes for the first time.

Bossano was unable to achieve a third term in office but does remain on the Gibraltarian political scene, currently serving as Minister for Economic Development, Telecommunications and the GSB in Fabian Picardo's cabinet.