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Posted by:May 3rd 2007, 09:46:56 am
Tuck ShopOpposition wins Bahamas election
Christie was criticised by the opposition for going too far in accommodating tourism developments [AP]

A former Bahamian prime minister will form the country's new government after leading his party to victory in elections dominated by political scandals and questions about the handling of the local tourism-driven economy.

Hubert Ingraham's opposition Free National Movement (FNM) has won 23 seats in the 41-seat legislature, while the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) of Perry Christie, the outgoing prime minister, has claimed the rest, the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas said on Thursday.

Both parties' platforms called for new strategies to curb illegal immigration, fight crime by expanding community policing and devote more resources to diplomatic missions overseas.

'Float voters'

The FNM, which held only eight seats in the outgoing parliament, appeared to have won over young first-time voters and the "float voters" with no strong party ties.

Officials of the party, nevertheless, said they intend to contest some of the seats that apparently went to the PLP.

About half the population of 300,000 was eligible to vote in Wednesday's election.

Ingraham, who led the Bahamas from 1992 until 2002, benefited from several scandals involving Christie's cabinet.

Among them was the claim that the former immigration minister fast-tracked the residency application of Anna Nicole Smith, the American pin-up model who died on the island in February.

Shane Gibson, who resigned in the face of accusations that he showed preferential treatment to Smith, was on the PLP's list of candidates.

Tourism overkill?

On the economic front, Ingraham gave warning that the government had gone too far in accommodating a second-home industry and tourist developments.

He said the country of 700 islands should lease rather than sell land to non-Bahamians.

He also said the Bahamas should consider abolishing the law that allows foreigners to qualify for residency by buying a house in the country.

Resort projects

Christie, a longtime political rival of Ingraham who worked as his law partner early in their careers, campaigned for a second five-year term by highlighting the $20bn in new foreign investment and resort projects since he took office.

Christie's PLP is traditionally seen as the party of the black majority.

By contrast, Ingraham's FNM was associated with the predominantly white group of politicians better known as the Bay Street Boys who governed the Bahamas prior to independence from Britain in 1973.
Posted by:May 3rd 2007, 09:44:33 am
Tuck ShopFree National Movement leader Hubert Ingraham said last night that this election is a "battle for the hearts and minds" of the Bahamian people.

Addressing thousands of supporters at a mass rally held on the grounds of the R M Bailey Park last night, Mr Ingraham said that the Bahamian people have been very disappointed in the PLP over the past five years.

"They feel let down. The PLP smeared our national honor at home and abroad," he said, adding "When the history of the Christie government is written it may well be entitled Dereliction of Duty."

Mr Ingraham said the PLP has failed to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of protecting the interests of Bahamian people. He said they oftentimes ignored the constitutional, legal and moral obligation to the people.

"A central issue in every democracy is how well a government protects the freedom and rights of its citizens. They dramatically and continuously failed this test," the former prime minister claimed, alleging "they undermined the judicial independence, intimidated citizens who chose to support the FNM , they blocked the media from information and they are engaging in unfair election practices."

Mr Ingraham, who addressed the crowd before being whisked away to Freeport for another mass rally, asked the Bahamian electorate to once again place their trust in him and the FNM.

"I assure you Hubert Ingraham and the FNM will honor this trust by vigorously expanding and safeguarding your economic security, your healthcare, your access to education and training, your access to land, and your basic freedoms in human rights," said the North Abaco MP.

"The choice in this election could not be clearer. A vote for the PLP is an endorsement of the unprecedented number and magnitude of their almost weekly scandals. A vote for the PLP is an endorsement for their tampering with your democracy. A vote for the FNM is a vote to restore trust in government."

Mr Ingraham said one of the greatest obligations of government is national security. However, he said the PLP's neglect of the Police and Royal Bahamas Defence Forces signaled their "inability to lead an effective government. They forgot or neglected to order police vehicles, neglected training, they forgot to provide the maintenance and upkeep of the Defence Force fleets and they re-instituted political interference in the promotion exercise of all uniformed branches.

"They failed to provide adequately for the development of our people." He maintained that in 2002, Mr Christie promised to implemented a National Health Insurance and failed to deliver it. "It was on his watch that the upgrades to public hospitals on the islands was put on hold. I can assure you that with an FNM government on Thursday, you will once again have a prime minister who would talk less and do more."

Mr Ingraham said he is not a "perfect person" but under an FNM government has the best polices and programs to take The Bahamas forward for the next five years.
Posted by:May 3rd 2007, 09:42:24 am
Tuck Shop
FNM beats PLP with 23 Seats

Last night he danced like he never did before. With a crown on his head and Junkanoo music echoing throughout Clifford Park, Prime Minister Perry Christie, flanked by his "winning team" wowed the crowd with his signature shuffle. But as thousands of supporters began to chant "two straight" and "it over" Christie was soon able to instill total calm when he claimed that Free National Movement leader Hubert Ingraham was using his law firm to personally benefit from the sale of land to foreigners.

According to Christie, Ingraham is often complaining about the amount of land the PLP sold to foreigners, but he alleged that Ingraham's law firm, from 2003-2006 assisted foreigners with buying land in the Family Islands, mainly in Abaco, to the tune of half a billion dollars.

"And I am only talking about land that foreigners bought, not Bahamians," Christie claimed. "This figure does not even include the land sold to foreigners in New Providence and Grand Bahama, of which Hubert Ingraham acted as their lawyer. That is a lot of money for a one-man law firm, and that is a lot of land sold to foreigners."

Said Mr. Christie: "While he is standing on a platform criticizing the PLP for allowing too much land to be sold to foreigners, this same Hubert Ingraham is raking the money in by facilitating the sale of more than half a billion dollars worth of land to foreigners," the Prime Minister claimed.

Throughout the election campaign, Ingraham and Christie were embroiled in a verbal wrangle in relation to the sale of crown land to foreigners. While Ingraham accused the government on many occasions of selling too much land to foreign investors, Christie often retorted that his government was actually buying land back for Bahamians.

Last night, Christie also dismissed several reported "lies" which he claimed the FNM was attempting to spread about the PLP. He noted that because the FNM has no real case against the PLP, they have resorted to claiming that the PLP government was selling Bahamasair and was also about to become a full member of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). Christie also added that he knew "nothing" about the FNM's claim of a member of his team being caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

"Who in my government got caught with his hand in the cookie jar?" Christie asked. "I don't know of any incident in which such corruption was even alleged. I believe Hubert Ingraham is confused. I think Hubert Ingraham has mixed us up with his own government. The last person who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, who got caught giving his own company a big fat government contract was Brent Symonette," Christie alleged. "The same man who Ingraham has as his deputy, his right hand, his bosom buddy and heir. That is the last man whose hand was caught in the cookie jar."

Christie also dismissed the reported FNM claims that he was "racist" and noted that every time the PLP called the name of "Brent Symonette," the PLP is referred to as racist. He claimed, however, that Symonette is trying to use his color, so that he can't be criticized by anyone. "I have absolutely no problem with Brent Symonette's color. What I do have a problem with is his unfitness for high public office, based in his arrogant refusal to admit that what he did at the airport was terribly wrong and unethical," Christie said.

Symonette resigned as Chairman of the Airport Authority in 2001, following public commentary on an apparent conflict of interest, which arose concerning the award of a contract by the Authority to a company [Bahamas Hot Mix] in which Mr. Symonette, together with another relative reportedly held a minority interest.

During his contribution to the parliamentary debate of the 2001-2002 budget estimates, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham expressed that it was a sad day for Mr. Symonette, of whom he claimed had no role in the day to day affairs of the company and of which the award of the contract, from all information available that was available to him [Ingraham] was at arms length.

Meanwhile, during his final appeal to urge supporters to mark their X next to the crab today at the polls, Christie said the FNM may have laid down a red carpet on Monday night on Clifford Park, but tonight when the ballots are counted by 8:00pm, the PLP will part the "red sea" and roll up the red carpet for good.

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