Bahamas heads into elections

Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie speaks at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, at the State Department in Washington.
Associated Press / Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

The Bahamas is preparing for general elections in the coming weeks with three parties competing to run one of the Caribbean Community’s most economically prosperous nations in the next five years.

The administration of Prime Minister Perry Christie is seeking a second consecutive term in office amidst tough economic times and the recent implementation of the widely unpopular value added or sales tax on consumers.

Christie’s Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had won a landslide back in May of 2012 with 30 of the 38 seats but it is unclear whether it will be able to repeat such a devastating performance after five years in office.

Government officials say parliament could be dissolved as early as the first week in April to clear the way for nomination day ahead of another election day likely in May as was the case five years ago. Christie had previously served a single term before losing in 2007 and returning in 2012.

The PLP would be coming up against the Free National Movement of Leader Hubert Minnis who has urged voters to pay attention to the island’s economic woes and the hardships the sales tax has imposed on consumers.

“We need new leadership that will listen to the people and work to turn our country around,” Minnis told a recent political rally.

“It’s a depressing fact that the government continues to blame everyone and everything—including the weather—on their inability to meet their campaign promise from five years ago when they pledged to get the Bahamian economy on a path of growth and prosperity. “Five long years, and our economy continues to shrink. For so many Bahamians nothing is getting better, it’s only getting worse for them and their families. The PLP got their way, imposing their onerous VAT tax on the people,” he said.

And like in other regional jurisdictions, a small, upstart third party — the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) will be competing against the two which have dominated Bahamian political life for decades.

The DNA had had only one seat which it lost in 2012 and is not expected to do well again local pundits say.

For his part, Prime Minister Christie and other government lawmakers and candidates, have urged party supporters to come out in numbers to ensure a second consecutive term for the PLP despite complaints about people registering twice and fears of voter fraud.

A total of 146,326 people were up to last weekend registered and eligible to vote.

Authorities have already announced plans to ask the Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth to observe the elections. These same groups were on the family islands back in 2012 when authorities had thought it wise to invite international monitors for the first time in history.

The Bahamas, one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, is one of the few countries in the bloc of nations holding scheduled elections this year as most of the others have done so in the past three years.

Campaigning recently, PM Christie begged voters to “give the PLP another opportunity to serve you. I don’t know what them other people talking about or what they’re saying but I come to you to ask you tonight to give us another opportunity to serve you, to build on the foundation that we have established.”

His deputy, Brian Davis, said as “you know what is coming, the bell will soon be rung. So please, we only have a short time left to register. You can only vote if you register.”

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