Bahamas PM concedes defeat in polls overshadowed by COVID-19

Hubert Minnis concedes defeat to Philip Davis and his Progressive Liberal Party following a campaign that centred on pandemic response.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis (centre) conceded to his challenger, opposition leader Philip Davis (left) following the elections on Thursday. They were seen here following Hurricane Dorian in 2019 [File: John Marc Nutt/Reuters]

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has conceded defeat in the general elections on the Atlantic island chain reeling from a surge in COVID-19 cases and slump in the tourism-dependent economy due to the pandemic.

Minnis called his challenger Philip Davis on Thursday to congratulate him and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) on winning the poll.

“I offered him my best wishes as his government now faces the continued fight against COVID-19, and the restoration of our economy,” Minnis, the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) party, said in a statement.

Minnis had been hoping to become the first prime minister in 24 years to win a second five-year term.

But Davis’ PLP gained momentum with a campaign focused on what it termed the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economy, which has seen unemployment surge to an estimated 20 percent and the fiscal deficit balloon during the pandemic.

“In the morning we will rise as one nation and meet the challenges ahead,” Davis told the media after Minnis conceded.

“Thank you for seeing the possibilities of what we can build together for our children and grandchildren.”

Some 119 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Wednesday, taking the active number to 1,679 in the nation of just 400,000 people, while the positivity rate has hovered approximately 25 percent for the past six weeks.

Julian Rolle, the chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority (PLA), told Bahamian media it had become difficult to staff healthcare facilities properly given about 5-10 percent of staff was quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

Minnis had argued that the PLP cannot be trusted with reviving one of the most prosperous economies in the Atlantic-Caribbean region where tourism accounts for about 50 percent of output and 60 percent of employment.

Under his watch, the Bahamas received a record 1.8 million visitors in 2019 and outgoing Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said he was aiming at one million air arrivals for 2021.

Davis’ PLP now faces some formidable challenges in office due to COVID-19 and its continuing health and economic effect.

The scattered archipelago stretching from just off eastern Florida to near Cuba is also still rebuilding after being pummelled in 2019 by Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, which killed at least 74 people and left many others missing.

National debt stood at $10.356bn at the end of June 2021, according to the Bahamian Ministry of Finance, which forecasts a $951m fiscal deficit for 2021-2022.

Source: Reuters