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Bermuda: Opposition party wins general election

From Caribbean News Service

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jul 19 2017 – At 38, David Burt says he is not daunted by the prospect of becoming Bermuda’s youngest premier after his opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) stormed to victory over the ruling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) in Tuesday’s general election, winning two-thirds of the seats.

The PLP won 24 of the 36 seats in the House of Assembly, the OBA taking the other 12 after losing seven seats on the night in a stunning reversal of a weekend opinion poll which gave the OBA a double-digit lead.

Turnout was 72.98 per cent with the PLP winning 58.89 per cent of the vote to the the OBA’s 40.61 per cent. The five independents won just 0.50 per cent of the vote, garnering just 169 votes between them, including 41 for Paula Cox, a former PLP premier.

Just before 11.20 p.m. local time, Burt, a father of two, got word of his own win in Pembroke West Central over the OBA’s Nick Kempe and shouted “Hallelujah!”

“We have a strong team … and we will wait to go forward but right now we celebrate tonight and we get to work tomorrow,” added Burt, who is expected to be sworn in at Government House on Wednesday.

Burt, who increased his majority almost fourfold from 2012, when the PLP’s previous 14-year reign ended in a 19-17 defeat to the OBA, embraced his wife Kristin, before declaring that he felt “fine” about the result.

Striking a solemn tone, he said: “Service is something I have committed my life to and, the fact is, I have served my community to the best of my ability and my constituency.”

Burt, who has a Bermudian father and Jamaican mother, said of the overall result across the country: “I’m certainly happy for the results …but, the fact of the matter is, this is about work. We cannot pretend that we can celebrate a victory today when there is still a huge challenge to Bermuda.

“We have unemployment, we have debt, we have a structural budget deficit, we have an economy that is unfair. We have lots of things which we have to do so there’s excitement, yes, but there’s also a measure of reality for the job ahead.”

The OBA’s biggest casualty was Bob Richards, the former Finance Minister and Deputy Premier, who lost by 513 votes to 419 in Devonshire East to union activist Christopher Famous, who is also a newspaper columnist.

Afterwards, Richards, the son of Sir Edward Richards, a former United Bermuda Party (UBP) premier who was born in British Guiana (now Guyana), announced his retirement from politics.

“I am certainly going to retire from politics. This is the end of the line for me. My public service is done,” said Richards after his defeat.

Nandi Outerbridge, the former Minister of Social Development and Sport, was another high-profile OBA casualty during a night of high drama as she was soundly defeated in St George’s West by Kim Swan, a former leader of the now defunct UBP, which ran the country for 30 years until losing to the PLP in 1998.

On a disastrous night for the OBA, defeated former premier Michael Dunkley acknowledged that his party had suffered some “crushing defeats” on a “tough day”.

“Congratulations to Mr Burt and the PLP,” he said. “My colleagues and I wish them all the best as they try and move Bermuda forward.”

Wayne Caines won back the Devonshire North West seat for the PLP, defeating OBA incumbent Glen Smith and independent Cox. The former premier, who many in the PLP had thought would take votes from her former party, trailed in a distant third as Caines picked up 568 votes to Smith’s 385.

Before Tuesday, the OBA, after four and a half years in power, had high hopes of holding on to most of their seats and even pinching one or two from the PLP in the so-called marginals.

But Ray Charlton, who lost by just eight votes to Michael Scott in Sandys North in 2012, was defeated 577 to 297. Andrew Simons, who lost by just six votes to Walton Brown in Pembroke Central five years ago, lost by 540 votes to 283.

The PLP’s Dennis Lister III defeated Jeff Sousa in what was considered a reasonably safe OBA seat in Warwick West. In Warwick North Central, a seat won narrowly by the OBA in 2012, David Burch defeated Sheila Gomez by 661 to 338.

For Burch, a former senator and cabinet minister in the previous PLP administration, it was his first success in winning a seat in the House. He lost by just 10 votes to Wayne Scott in 2012.

Sousa lost by 12 votes to Lister, a shock defeat for a politician so certain of victory that he said before the count: “I am not going to lose. That would be a miracle. I know my people. I know my constituents.”

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