NASSAU, The Bahamas — Dr Hubert Minnis is the newly-elected Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, after delivering a crushing defeat to Perry Christie’s Progressive Liberal Party in a 35-4¹ parliamentary split.
Minnis’ Free National Movement party secured the exit of virtually all of the PLP’s senior political hierarchy, with former Prime Minister, Perry Christie, losing his Centreville seat to an FNM political newcomer, Reece Chipman.
Also losing their seats were Fred Mitchell, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Obediah Wilchcombe, former Minister of Tourism; Shane Gibson, former Minister of Labour; Glenys Hanna-Martin², former Minister of Transport; and Leslie Miller, Member of Parliament for Tall Pines and a decades-long PLP veteran.
Allegations of PLP corruption and arrogance dominated the keenly-contested election campaign, with the 73-year old Christie weeks ago earning the ire of the electorate as he defiantly boasted that “not even God” could stop him.
Irregularities at last Wednesday’s advance polling in New Providence, Grand Bahama and several overseas posts – which saw some voters unable to cast their ballots – led to the removal of the country’s Parliamentary Commissioner, Sherlyn Hall. Voting was also temporarily suspended today in a New Providence constituency over concerns about missing unused ballots, forcing Christie to reaffirm his commitment to free and fair elections in press interviews today.
The extensive delay to the opening of the $4bn Chinese-backed Baha Mar mega-resort, as well as allegations of rent-seeking by PLP officials, dogged the incumbent administration and gave momentum to Minnis’ platform for transparency and Bahamian ownership of the economy. Controversial new taxes amid sluggish economic performance, rising unemployment and extensive crime were also major irritants against the Christie government.
According to IMF data, The Bahamas saw four consecutive years without economic growth during the Christie administration’s five-year term. Baha Mar is optimistically expected to contribute to a forecasted 1.4% and 2.2% of GDP growth in 2017 and 2018 respectively, but the FNM will now have to deliver longer-term solutions to dent unemployment and curb the national debt, which is expected to reach 70% of GDP by the end of fiscal year 2017.
¹ Editor’s note: The original version of this story indicated the parliamentary split to be 34-5 in favour of the FNM. As vote tallying continued after press time, the FNM’s haul widened to 35 to the PLP’s 4.
² By mid-afternoon on May 11, a recount in the Englerston constituency saw the previously-declared winner, former PLP Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin, lose to FNM candidate Raymond Rolle. The result was itself subsequently reversed.