PM shuts down early election speculation

PM shuts down early election speculation
(FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis suggested yesterday his administration will go the full term before calling a general election sometime in May 2022.

The statement came amid widespread speculation about an early election as the government prepares to table legislation to create a permanent voter’s register.

“Election is due on, I think, May 2022,” the prime minister told reporters on the sidelines of a Small Business Development Centre grant presentation at the Gladstone Road Freight Terminal.

“That’s what I know, so [the] election is not due until May 2022.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis

“So, they can talk whatever they want to, that’s when it is due.”

The Free National Movement (FNM) is more than halfway through its five-year term.

The FNM campaigned on ending corruption, bringing more accountability and transparency to governance, improving and diversifying the economy while reducing the national debt, reducing crime and expanding Bahamian ownership and entrepreneurship.

It has made inroads on these fronts, notwithstanding the social and economic shock of two natural disasters, including record Hurricane Dorian and the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

As of July 2019, crime was down 17 percent compared to the first six months of 2018.

It fell a further four percent as of July 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.

The government has provided more than $50 million in grants to over 900 small and medium-sized businesses.

The fiscal deficit and government expenditure showed improvement ahead of Dorian, which caused an estimated $3.4 billion in damages and prompted the government to massive borrowing.

Some key election promises remain unfulfilled, however.

The FMM promised electoral reform such as term limits for prime ministers and a recall system for non-performing parliamentarians; an independent Constituencies Commission; and a referendum on capital punishment, among others ranging from immigration reform to reform on campaign finances.

As to the FNM’s chances at the polls, Minnis said: “I think the people know exactly what we are doing. People know our hearts.

“The people know the challenges we faced in terms of Irma when we first came in. We were challenged with Hurricane Irma.

“We were the first government to have embarked on an air evacuation in the south to ensure there were no deaths during that hurricane.

“And in spite of that, our economic programs and our program continued to move forward.

“And we were challenged with Dorian. And in spite of that, we continued to move forward. And now we’re plagued with COVID, and the entire world is plagued with COVID, and in spite of that, we continue to focus our concentration on building a better Bahamas and preparing The Bahamas for the future.”

In July, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis challenged the prime minister to “ring the bell” and call an election as Minnis lambasted the PLP’s record in office.

Minnis has remained confident of a second term.

While reflecting on the first two years in office in August 2019, the prime minister asked supporters to “imagine what we will do knowing that I have eight more”.

He has said he will retire from frontline politics in 2027.