The Bahamian prime minister sought a second term in elections Wednesday, touting his record for overseeing growth in the tourism-driven economy in the face of opposition criticism that the island chain has been put up for sale to foreigners.
Rallies during the campaign were marked by mudslinging, including opposition references to the immigration minister who fast-tracked Anna Nicole Smith's residency application and resigned in scandal.
The Free National Movement, which governed from 1992 until 2002, hoped to win power back from the Progressive Liberal Party, its chief rival since the Bahamas won independence from Britain in 1973. The opposition held only eight of the 41 seats in the outgoing parliament.
About half the population of 300,000 was eligible to vote, and islanders formed orderly lines outside schools and other voting places until polls closed.
Prime Minister Perry Christie campaigned for a second 5-year term by highlighting the $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."
His opponent, Hubert Ingraham, warned that the government had gone too far in accommodating a second-home industry and tourist developments, arguing the country should lease rather than sell land to 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 called for new strategies to curb illegal immigration, fight crime by expanding community policing and devote more resources to diplomatic missions overseas.
Among the governing party's slate was Shane Gibson, the former immigration minister who was accused of showing preferential treatment to Smith.
Ingraham said the Bahamas should consider abolishing the law that allows foreigners to qualify for residency by purchasing a house in the country.