A former Bahamian prime minister led his opposition party to victory, returning to power in elections dominated by questions about the handling of the country's tourism-driven economy.
Hubert Ingraham's Free National Movement won 23 seats in the 41-seat legislature Wednesday, with the party of Prime Minister Perry Christie claiming the rest, according to the government-owned Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas.
"The people of the Bahamas have spoken," Ingraham said in a victory speech interrupted several times by cheers from thousands of supporters dressed in the party's signature red shirts. He told them Christie had called him to concede defeat.
Ingraham, who led the Atlantic archipelago nation from 1992 until 2002, seized on scandals involving Christie's Cabinet, including references to the immigration minister who fast-tracked Anna Nicole Smith's residency application and resigned in scandal.
He also warned that the government had gone too far in accommodating a second-home industry and tourist developments, arguing the country of 700 islands 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 recent rally. "Once the land is sold, it's gone."
Christie, a longtime political rival of Ingraham who worked as his law partner early in their careers, becomes the country's first single-term prime minister since the Bahamas won independence from Britain in 1973.
He campaigned for a second five-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. "The economy is booming as never before. Tourism is vibrant and strong."
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.
About half the population of 300,000 was eligible to vote, and islanders formed orderly lines outside schools and other voting places.
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.
Officials with the Free National Movement, which held only eight seats in the outgoing parliament, said they intend to contest some of the seats that apparently went to the governing party but they would not affect their control of parliament.