Bahamas acude a las urnas para elegir al próximo primer ministro
La población de Bahamas, un archipiélago atlántico situado al este de la costa de Florida (EE.UU.), de cerca de 400.000 habitantes, acude este jueves a las urnas para escoger en elecciones generales al primer ministro y los 39 escaños de la Cámara de Representantes, en unos comicios marcados por la covid-19.
El gobernante Movimiento Nacional Libre (FNM, en inglés) que lidera el primer ministro, Hubert Minnis, y el opositor Partido Liberal Progresista (PLP, en inglés), con Philip Davis a cabeza, son las únicas formaciones con posibilidades de triunfo en los comicios de mañana.
FNMs Head to their Final Drive In Rally
Supporters of the Free National Movement are making their way to the carnival grounds for the final drive-in rally in New Providence before the General Election tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/O0hGEqAa4F
— OURnews Bahamas (@OurNewsRev) September 15, 2021
Las elecciones, por encima de cualquier otro aspecto, están marcadas por la alta incidencia de la covid-19 en este archipiélago atlántico, cuya economía depende, en gran medida, de los turistas estadounidenses que en la temporada alta, de diciembre a abril, llegan a las famosas playas de este territorio.
Bahamas es una monarquía constitucional hereditaria que pertenece a la Mancomunidad de Naciones, entidad que agrupa a territorios ligados históricamente al Reino Unido.
PLP Deputy Leader Confident About Grand Bahama
While speaking to party supporters, PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper expressed confidence that the party will win Grand Bahama.
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— OURnews Bahamas (@OurNewsRev) September 15, 2021
Desde que comenzó la pandemia, en marzo de 2020, en Bahamas se han registrado 19.601 contagios y 463 muertes provocados por la covid-19.
RESERVAS SOBRE EL VOTO DE CONTAGIADOS
La alta incidencia llevó a que algunos representantes sanitarios mostraran reservas sobre si los contagiados deberían acercarse a los colegios electorales a votar, pero una prohibición de esa naturaleza hubiera chocado con los derechos constitucionales.
El ministro de Salud, Renward Wells, señaló recientemente que el Gobierno no impediría que las personas en cuarentena voten.
“Para evitar que la gente votara, habría algunos problemas constitucionales”, justificó Wells.
El Ejecutivo de Minnis, finalmente, estableció que los positivos, bajo estrictas medidas de seguridad, sí podrán ejercer su derecho este jueves.
Respecto a la campaña electoral, Davis atacó esta semana al primer ministro Minnis por los comentarios hechos por este sobre los 19.000 votos adelantados —para personas que no pudieran el día oficial— del pasado fin de semana correspondientes a las islas de Nueva Providencia, Gran Bahama y residentes en el extranjero.
MINNIS, INFORMADO DE SU VICTORIA
Minnis afirmó durante dos mítines del FNM que había sido “informado de manera confiable” de la victoria de su partido en el voto adelantado.
Davis señaló durante un mitin virtual del PLP que va contra la ley abrir esas urnas del voto adelantado antes de que finalice la votación el día de las elecciones, lo que sugiere, dijo, que el primer ministro, supuestamente, podría estar relacionado con alguna acción inapropiada.
Además, Davis arremetió contra el historial de Minnis en el Gobierno, destacando como hechos negativos el alto endeudamiento público y el aumento del impuesto al valor agregado.
El poder legislativo recae en Bahamas en dos cámaras: la primera el Senado —compuesto por dieciséis miembros (elegidos por el gobernador general)— y 39 miembros de la Cámara de Representantes, elegidos directamente por la población en elecciones cada 5 años.
El monarca británico, como jefe de Estado, es quien designa a su representante, el gobernador general, actualmente Cornelius Smith.
En los últimos comicios, el FNM ganó al obtener 35 escaños, frente a los 4 del PLP, mientras que la Alianza Nacional Democrática no obtuvo ninguno.
El mandato actual no vencía constitucionalmente hasta mayo de 2022, pero Minnis decidió adelantar los comicios para facilitar la formación de un nuevo Ejecutivo que ponga fin a una legislatura inestable caracterizada por polémicas y dimisiones.
Dames Warns Voters Must Follow Protocols As Election Day Nears
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames said the Bahamian people can be assured COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced on Election Day amid concerns about further virus spread now that quarantined people are allowed to vote.
Mr Dames, who has responsibility for elections, spoke to reporters after the Office of the Prime Minister announced on Sunday quarantined people will be permitted to leave their isolation to take part in tomorrow’s voting.
The statement also came days after the advanced poll was held, where thousands gathered and stood in long lines in the blistering heat with little to no social distancing seen at many voting locations.
Yesterday Mr Dames also said officials are doing all they can to ensure voters remain safe on Election Day and added the public can expect several changes due to lessons learned from last week’s early vote.
“It has always been our intention to treat the environment as if every voter is quarantined and that’s our intention,” Mr Dames said before going to a Cabinet meeting. “I mean it didn’t work perfectly through the advance poll but you can expect some changes coming to Election Day.
“…I met with the Parliamentary Commissioner and his team yesterday (Monday) as well as the top brass of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Defence Force and they’re currently going through a series of debriefings and briefings and you could expect come Election Day that you will see any number of those issues that you saw at the advanced poll rectified.”
Last week, Health Minister Renward Wells told reporters health officials had made recommendations on how people in quarantine for COVID exposure or those with the virus could be allowed to vote.
Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases Programme at the Ministry of Health, also recently said it would be safer for people in this category to vote online or in a “remote” forum.
Asked why the government did not follow those recommendations, Mr Dames replied: “Well, again, I don’t have the benefit of those before me but our intention has always been as a government that we want to ensure that every registered voter is given the opportunity to exercise his or her rights during the election period and every step is being taken to ensure that that happens in the safest possible way in this environment and we have to taken steps to ensure that. We’ll see how it works out come Election Day.”
Mr Dames was asked if he was concerned about low voter turnout due to public fears about contracting the virus at the polls.
“Well, you may have quarantine voters among you right here, right now,” he said. “Quarantine voters are all around us. You don’t know who they are and again, our intention is to ensure that we go into assuming that every voter is quarantined and so we’re going to take extra steps and additional steps.
“The Parliamentary Registration Department along with the police and defence force will take extra steps come Election Day to ensure that voters are masked, and they are keeping their distance and that they’re sanitised.”
In a statement released Monday, the Parliamentary Registration Department outlined several health and safety protocols it plans to utilise on Thursday in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
The department said election workers were encouraged to be vaccinated or at least have begun the vaccination process.
Additionally, all voters, poll workers and election agents are required to always wear a face mask while in the polling station. The masks should cover the nose and mouth properly.
The statement also noted that hand sanitising stations will be available throughout the polling site, especially upon entry to polling divisions and individual workstations should be at a distance of three to six feet.
Davis claims FNM would raise taxes
Seeking to make a case for why voters should support the Progressive Liberal Party at the polls tomorrow, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis claimed at a virtual rally last night that the Free National Movement (FNM) administration would raise taxes if re-elected.
“We have been told by credible sources that the government called a snap election because their back is against the wall with the country’s creditors; they’re ready to raise your taxes, but they ain’ plannin’ to tell you that until after you vote,” Davis charged.
“And they’re going to raise your taxes because they are too afraid of their wealthy donors to raise theirs, and because they have no new ideas and no clue how to create economic growth.”
The PLP intends to lower taxes for the poor, he pledged.
“It’s true we’re going to need new revenue to stabilize our finances, but we’re going to ask the wealthiest to pay more, and to pay what they already owe, instead of reaching into your pocket,” Davis said.
“The current government, on the other hand, is getting ready for a repeat performance. They raised VAT (value-added tax) 60 percent for you, while handing out special tax deals for the wealthy and well-connected, and they gave VAT breaks to multinational corporations in Grand Bahama. And who could forget that they reduced business license fees not for small businesses, but for those with more than $50 million in annual sales.”
The PLP has pledged to lower VAT from 12 percent to 10 percent for 12 months. In 2015, the Christie administration introduced VAT at a rate of 7.5 percent.
Then Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis called the taxation the lazy way out, and the FNM suggested throughout the 2017 election campaign that the VAT money had been stolen by those in government and their cronies.
Davis told Bahamians last night the tax cut his administration would implement would “help you a little; it will lighten the load during these tough times, and make every dollar go a little farther”.
PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said previously that the plan to decrease VAT could increase government revenue by $200 million, contending that the economic principles suggest that lowering costs will increase demand.
However, Cooper said the 10 percent VAT position would be evaluated after one year to see if it indeed had the revenue increasing effect he cited.
“The 12-month marker will give us enough time and enough empirical evidence to demonstrate whether that rate must continue to be 10,” he said in March.
The Minnis administration said at the time that the PLP’s plan would cause a “dramatic decrease in government revenue, likely in excess of $100 million during the proposed 12-month period, at a time when the country’s fiscal resources are under tremendous strain and the needs for government to support social and economic programs are even more pronounced.”
At the end of the 2020/2021 fiscal year, the fiscal deficit stood at $1.3 billion, up from $811.7 million in the previous year.
The national debt climbed to $10.3 billion.
Gross borrowing was at $3 billion for the fiscal year.
‘Amateur in charge’
Last night, Davis claimed the Minnis administration called an election without a plan to rejuvenate the economy and stabilize finances.
“Now they are shouting last-minute promises at you from the rally stage. A hastily-thrown together list of promises isn’t the same thing as a strategic plan,” he said.
“And they are likely to keep these new promises about as well as they kept the ones they made in 2017 – which is to say, not at all.
“It’s extraordinary, how many Bahamian and international investors have told me the same thing: under this government, the Office of the Prime Minister is where good ideas and big plans go to die.
“The prime minister has no business being the minister of finance; things are too serious and growing our economy is too urgent to have an amateur in charge.”
Davis said The Bahamas has been stuck with no real progress under the Minnis administration.
“This government inherited the twin gifts of Baha Mar and a booming US economy, but they still struggled to create economic growth, even before Dorian and COVID,” he said.
“They were left a framework for a Sovereign Wealth Fund, for our natural resources, but they dropped the ball and made zero progress. We’re going to leverage our natural resources, ensuring that royalties go into the fund and are used to benefit generations of Bahamians.
“We’re going to encourage the development of value-added industries, so that natural raw materials can be turned into finished products here, in The Bahamas, instead of somewhere else.”
While Davis has branded the 81-page FNM Manifesto ‘21 as a hastily put together plan, Prime Minister Minnis has called the PLP’s 29-page “Our Blueprint for Change” a pamphlet with recycled ideas.
In its manifesto, the FNM pledges to “resource a National Sovereign Wealth Fund”.
It says it will “mobilize public assets and private capital to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments across the country every year.”
Today is the final push for the political parties and the various candidates as the finish line approaches.
Over the last month, the prime minister has been warning voters that the PLP would return “scandal and corruption to government”.
The PLP, meanwhile, has continued to speak of what it views as the incompetent management of the people’s affairs.
In total, 194,524 Bahamians are registered to vote.
PLP campaign worker killed in Elizabeth Estates
A Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) campaign worker was stabbed to death outside a PLP constituency office in Elizabeth Estates yesterday after he got into an argument with a man known to him, police said.
ASP Audley Peters said yesterday that there was no evidence to indicate that the killing was politically motivated.
He said the two men knew each other well.
The murder happened shortly after 7 p.m. on Antigua Street, Peters said.
The victim, who was in his late 30s, was stabbed in his chest and died at the scene, he said.
Peters said police have a man in custody assisting with the murder.
A visibly shaken Zane Lightbourne, the PLP’s candidate for Yamacraw, identified the victim as his campaign worker.
“I was at their house recently and I just saw him earlier this evening before we went into the community,” he said at the scene last night.
“He was a very helpful young man. He was always ready to help.”
In a statement, Lightbourne said, “We were shocked and saddened to lose one of our campaign volunteers to a violent crime today.
“We offer our most sincere condolences to his family.”