Voters kick out Bahamian government

Prime Minister of The Bahamas Hubert Minnis addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., Sept. 27, 2019.
REUTERS / Lucas Jackson, File

Bahamian Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis last month called general elections almost a year ahead of schedule, fearing the archipelago’s uphill battle with the COVID-19 pandemic and massive losses of revenues and restrictions on the travel and tourism industry would have undermined his administration’s chances of a second consecutive term.

So he named Thursday, Sept. 16 as election day, figuring that he would catch the opposition Progressive Labor Party (PLP) of Opposition Leader and prominent attorney, Phillip “Brave” Davis off guard and sneak in a second term.

But by midnight Thursday, Minnis and his Free National Movement (FNM) party were headed to the opposition benches as voters turned their backs on Minnis and his cabinet, blaming them for the economic downturn, the alleged mishandling of the response to the pandemic and for runaway corruption and nepotism.

Minnis had asked islanders to bear with him and to reflect on the fact that the lifeline tourism sector had not only almost died during the global lockdown and subsequent measures after reopening, as well as to remember that the country has had to endure a torrid battering from superstorms Irma and Dorian in the past five years. It appears, however, voters were unsympathetic and kept up with a post 2002 tradition of changing their governments at every election since.

Many of the FNM’s cabinet ministers will not make it to the new parliament when it reconvenes in about a month, having been part of the tide of change that swept through the famous islands that make up The Bahamas family chain.

Detailed results were not available up to mid-morning Friday but local media reported that a large group of ministers including those from health, tourism, the environment, foreign affairs, security, disaster relief and education will have to find new jobs as they were swept out of power by PLP voters.

“The people determined that they preferred the PLP. My party and I accept that result. We are proud of our record the past four-plus years. During our term we faced the most difficult times in Bahamian history. In September 2019, Abaco, the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama were struck by the strongest storm to hit The Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest storms recorded on our planet. It caused generational destruction to our northern islands. Six months later, we were in the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout each crisis my government worked hard to assist the Bahamian people. The FNM has a proud legacy. We have governed The Bahamas over four terms,” he said in a late night concession speech.

There were more than 40 multimillionaires among the 225 candidates vying for seats in the 39 constituencies. Eligible voters amounted to just under 200,000. Voter turnout usually averages close to 90 percent but statistics from this week’s poll were not yet available.

For his part, PM elect Davis,70, addressed jubilant supporters, thanking them for their support but warning of challenges ahead.

“It is time to face our challenges and face them head on. You voted for a new day, a new beginning. To those who voted PLP today I promise to work hard to justify your faith in us. To those who voted for a different party today I pledge to work hard to overcome your doubts. Many of you didn’t vote at all today because the snap election took you by surprise and you weren’t able to register on time, or because transferring from one constituency to another was deliberately made too difficult for you. Many of you didn’t vote today because you were afraid of being exposed to the virus; the protocols for protecting voters were only published at the last minute but I want to say tonight our government will serve all Bahamians.”

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