Poll ousts Bahamian leader after 25 years

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The Independent Online
NASSAU - A politician who has led his party for two years has scored an unexpected win over the Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, one of the world's longest- serving elected leaders, in elections in the Bahamas.

Partial returns showed Hubert Ingraham's Free National Movement (FNM) had won at least 25 seats in the 49-seat parliament. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), in power for a quarter of a century under Sir Lynden, previously held 32 seats. Sir Lynden, 62, yesterday conceded defeat on state media from his home on the island of Andros.

Despite a thunderstorm, Ingraham supporters drove through the streets honking their horns in celebration. 'It is not now time for the FNM to crow,' said Mr Ingraham's spokesman, Arthur Foulkes. 'We want to pull Bahamians together. We want the PLPers to feel comfortable.'

Mr Ingraham, 45, who joined the opposition two years ago and became its leader within weeks, was a rising star in Sir Lynden's party until their break in 1986. He has accused the government of arrogance, mismanagement, corruption and 'squander-mania'. He projected an image both of a stern lawmaker and of a man of the people.

Sir Lynden had won six consecutive elections. The two both have centrist views but Mr Ingraham places more emphasis on free markets and privatisation.

The last election in 1987 was held amid charges of corruption and cocaine trafficking after some of Sir Lynden's associates were implicated in drug pay-offs. Sir Lynden was never charged. US officials have recently praised the Bahamas as a model partner in the war against drugs.

This time voters focused on bread and butter issues. Unemployment is high and tourism - which contributes directly or indirectly to 70 per cent of gross domestic product - has faltered because of the US recession.

Sir Lynden said recovery had begun and Central Bank figures show growth for the last two quarters. But Mr Ingraham, campaigning on the one-word slogan 'Deliverance,' persuaded voters it was time for change.

Sir Lynden won his constituency but his daughter, Michelle Pindling Sands, lost her first foray into parliamentary politics. He seemed upbeat when casting his vote, but the polling station, an empty shop, underscored the problems of the recession.