In a brutal rejection of the Minnis administration, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis was yesterday elected as the fifth prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas after his party won more than 30 seats in the 39-seat House of Assembly.
The unofficial results showed that only three members of Cabinet held onto their seats – outgoing Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in Killarney, Michael Pintard in Marco City and Iram Lewis in Central Grand Bahama.
Just before 9 p.m., Minnis called Davis and conceded defeat, and said in a statement he intends to stay on as opposition leader.
In addition to the three seats that were won by the outgoing ministers, the Free National Movement (FNM) also won St. Anne’s, St. Barnabas and Long Island.
Several former PLP ministers were re-elected: Obie Wilchcombe in West Grand Bahama and Bimini; Dr. Michael Darville in Tall Pines; Glenys Hanna-Martin in Englerston; Alfred Sears in Fort Charlotte; Fred Mitchell in Fox Hill and Keith Bell in Carmichael.
Michael Halkitis, the former minister of state for finance, lost to Shanendon Cartwright in St. Barnabas.
Davis, who had run a campaign promising to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and grow the economy, watched the results come in from Cat Island, a seat he won by more than 500 votes.
His deputy, Chester Cooper, won Exumas and Ragged Island by more than 1,000 votes.
In a victory speech surrounded by his family and jubilant supporters last night, Davis said, “You voted for a new day, new beginning.
“We are a nation and a people yearning for renewal. It is time to face our challenges and face them head-on. We will do so with humility but also with determination. We will work so that opportunities reach into every home because we believe in the dignity of every member of our Bahamian family.
“To those who voted PLP today, I promise to work hard to justify your faith in us. To those of you who voted for a different party today, I pledge to work hard to overcome your doubts.
“Many of you didn’t vote at all today because the snap election took you by surprise and you weren’t able to register on time or because transferring from one constituency to another was deliberately made too difficult for you. Many of you did not vote today because you are afraid of being exposed to the virus.
“The protocols to protect voters were only published at the last minute. It is the first time in our modern history that a government has worked to disenfranchise voters and suppress turnout. All I want to say tonight, whether you voted PLP or for the other party, whether you came out to vote or you weren’t able to vote, our government will serve all Bahamians.
“We won in places where the PLP has not won in decades or ever before. We thank you for your support. We’re going to work hard to make sure that with every year that passes you feel prouder and prouder of the vote you cast for us.”
Voters praised yesterday’s general voting as much smoother and efficient than the early voting, which took place on September 9. Unlike the advanced poll, there were no long lines for any extended period, and no chaotic crowding at voting sites in New Providence.
Voting ended at 6 p.m. for most constituencies but Englerston, Fox Hill, Golden Isles, Southern Shores and Yamacraw were given extensions.
By 7 p.m., all voting had ended.
Less than two hours later, Minnis, the FNM leader, had conceded the election.
In a statement, Minnis said, “We did not win this time. But I say to the next generation of FNMs that you should stay firm to this party’s founding ideals.
“Always put the people first and be honest in government.
“The people have asked us to be the opposition. We will ensure the people’s resources are spent properly. We will ensure there is accountability. We will oppose when necessary. We will agree when the government’s plans are in the best interests of the people.”
The election was called eight months before it was constitutionally due.
The new administration will face tough challenges.
The Bahamas is grappling with its worst surge of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations, and faces a fragile economic situation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Dorian, which brutalized Abaco and Grand Bahama – the second and third-largest economies in The Bahamas.
In the lead-up to the election, Davis promised to cut value-added tax – which was implemented by the previous PLP administration in 2015 – to 10 percent after the Minnis administration raised it from the original 7.5 percent to 12 percent in 2018.
He also promised to introduce free COVID-19 testing and establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Last night, when asked about his first order of business as prime minister, Davis told reporters his number one priority will be tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was no official report on voter turnout up to press time, but it appeared to be lower than in previous elections.