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Bahamian prime minister seeks 2nd term on strength of economy

Bahamian prime minister seeks 2nd term on strength of economy

The Bahamian prime minister who touts his record overseeing the growth of a tourism-driven economy faced a challenger in elections Wednesday who accuses him of putting too much of the island chain up for sale.
Thousands of people have attended rallies full of mudslinging, including opposition references to the immigration minister who fast-tracked celebrity Anna Nicole Smith's residency application and resigned in scandal.
The Free National Movement, which ran the country from 1992 until 2002, holds just eight of 41 seats in parliament but aims to seize majority control from the Progressive Liberal Party, its chief rival since the Bahamas won independence from Britain in 1974.
About half the population of 300,000 was eligible to vote. Voters flocked to schools and other polling places to cast ballots Wednesday.
Prime Minister Perry Christie, who is seeking a second five-year term, highlights US$20 billion (euro14.7 billion) in new foreign investment and resort projects since he took office.
"We've taken the Bahamian economy to new heights of prosperity," he said in a televised address Monday night. "The economy is booming as never before. Tourism is vibrant and strong."
But his opponent, Hubert Ingraham, said the government has gone too far in accommodating a second-home industry and tourist developments, arguing it should lease rather than sell land for non-Bahamians.
"They simply sign on to just about any outrageous proposal that winds up in the inbox on their desks," Ingraham said at a rally Monday night. "Once the land is sold, it's gone."
Both parties' platforms call for new strategies to curb illegal immigration, fight crime by expanding community policing and devote more resources to diplomatic missions overseas.
The Bahamas, wealthier than most of its Caribbean neighbors, is often used as a stepping stone for migrants trying to reach the United States. The closest Bahamian island is about 55 miles (88 kilometers) from Florida's coast.
Among the ruling party's slate of candidates is Shane Gibson, the former immigration minister who was accused of showing preferential treatment. Ingraham has said the Bahamas should consider abolishing the law that allows foreigners to qualify for Bahamian residency by purchasing a house in the country.


Updated : 2021-03-06 19:24 GMT+08:00