HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) -- Bermuda's Labor Party swept to victory for the
time in general elections on Monday, ending the conservatives' 30-year rule.
Preliminary results gave 26 of the 40 Parliament seats to the Bermuda Labor
Party and the rest to former Premier Pamela Gordon's United Bermuda party.
Labor had held 18 seats in the outgoing government.
Labor Party leader Jennifer Smith, who will become the new premier, said
Bermuda's residents had met their "date with destiny" in Monday's elections.
Turnout was 77 percent of the 36,000 voters on the island, Britain's most
populous remaining colony with 60,000 people.
The biggest issue was the economy, which is dependent on tourism and a
booming off-shore banking industry now threatened by proposals for stricter
The Labor Party, which has moved to the political center in recent years,
sought to reassure the island's white-led business community during the
campaign, promising to "work in partnership with the banking community,
international business and the island's chamber of commerce."
The 35-year-old Labor Party, backed by the island's blacks, had never won
an election before. Many blamed racist fears that they would mishandle the
Although Bermudians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the
world with a per capita income of $36,000, some complain of declining
education standards and the lack of affordable housing on their
Drugs and crime are also causing problems on Bermuda, which islanders still
pride as one of the safest vacation destinations.
In Devonshire North, a largely black constituency, voters said Gordon's
United Bermuda Party had not done enough for the island's poorer
"They won. We lost," Gordon said. "We've got a lot of work to do, and if
this is what the people of Bermuda need to start the healing process, then we
need to get busy."
Gordon's ruling United Bermuda Party was founded by the white merchant
class descended from Britons who settled in Bermuda in the 1600s and
make up 35 percent of the population. Gordon is black, as is most of her
Cabinet. However, the party is seen by many as part of the white
Most Bermudians are blacks of African descent.
Racial tensions dominated politics here in the 1970s, and race riots erupted
in 1972-73 and in 1977.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.