Page last updated at 04:46 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sark votes in first-ever election


Life on the island of Sark

The Channel Islanders of Sark are expected to vote in high numbers later for their first democratic government after nearly 450 years of feudal rule.

The polling station at Island Hall will open from 1000 to 1800 GMT, when up to 474 voters will elect 28 conseillers to the island's Chief Pleas.

The constitution was changed to comply with European human rights legislation.

A total of 57 candidates - about 12% of the electorate - are standing. The results are expected at about 2200 GMT.

The duties of returning officer are being dealt with by the island's seneschal (senior judge and president of the Chief Pleas), Lt Col Reg Guille.

Chief Pleas
The new conseillers will take their oath of office in the court on 9 January

He told BBC News he was pleased with the number of candidates and hoped the election turnout would be 80% or higher.

"There are some people away from the island because of illness or holidays they'd booked a long time ago, so we won't get 100% turnout," the seneschal said.

When a postal and telephone opinion poll was carried out in 2006 about constitutional change, 89.5% of islanders responded.

"I doubt we'll get to there, but possibly 80%. The nearer it gets to 100% the most delighted I'll be," Lt Col Guille said.

"I don't care how long it takes to count the ballot papers - the more the better."

Tied vote

Election officials appointed by the seneschal will issue the ballot papers to voters at Sark's only polling station - the snooker room in Island Hall. When the poll closes, the count will be carried out by volunteers from the electoral roll.

All proceedings will be overseen by the island's constable, vingtenier - responsible for policing - and assistant constable.

"One of them will always be present at the polling station and at the count thereafter to ensure neither the public, press or the candidates themselves interfere with the election process," the seneschal said.

A second election will be held on 7 January in the event of a tie between two or more candidates, where the addition of one more vote would have caused a candidate to be elected. This would only affect the tied candidates.

The new conseillers will serve a term of either four or two years. This will be decided by a ballot the successful candidates will be asked to draw.

A special sitting of the Chief Pleas will be held on 9 January after conseillers have taken their oath of office and allegiance.

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