Voters in the Bahamas, angry with the administration of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham for not doing enough to tackle crime and steady the economy, dumped his Free National Movement (FNM) as the country’s government after five years in general elections held on Monday, with main opposition parties winning in an unexpected landslide.
Prime Minister-elect Perry Christie, who had previously served a single five-year term up to 2007, is now back at the helm of government after his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) lapped up the majority of the 41 seats in the archipelago off Florida in a poll that has confounded academics, who had predicted a close race and even the PLP remaining in opposition. Official results are to be declared later.
A clear trend emerged long before Ingraham conceded defeat to his bitter archrival and announced that he had, had enough of public life.
“The Progressive Liberal Party has won the election,” Ingraham told supporters at party headquarters. “I want to publicly congratulate the party,” he said as PLP supporters, many of them complaining about a lack of jobs, danced in the streets of the capital, Nassau, and on many of the other “Family Islands.”
Christie’s term had been blighted by a series of corruption scandals, not the least of them being the alleged fast-tracking of late Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith’s residency application. Ingraham, then in opposition, made much of the scandal, helped largely by U.S. media, which had been following the story blow by blow.
For his own part, a jubilant and beaming Christie, who recovered from a stroke during his previous term, said he was happy to be back in government and will focus on the main issues.
“I would like to extend, with the deepest humility, my thanks to the Bahamian people for reposing the confidence in me and my party, and for doing so in such a powerful and unequivocal voice,” he said as music and car horns blared. “Now that the elections are over, the hard work must begin. Great challenges lie ahead, but with God’s grace and the support of the Bahamian people, we will overcome the challenges and restore peace and prosperity to our beloved land.”
The Bahamas is one of the Caribbean community’s most prosperous members, but it has been shying away from full participation in the regional single-trading market and its key programs, especially opening its immigration doors to the region’s free movement of skilled workers and other people in the open free market.
It is also a major leisure and tourist destination for North Americans and Europeans, racking up at least 4 million visitors a year, and usually sits atop the regional rankings as a main, world-class tourist destination.
It gained independence from Britain in 1983 and has a population of about 350,000, many of them immigrants from nearby Haiti.