May 2, 2002

Bahamas opposition party scores major upset

Governing party leader and deputy leader lose seats

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) --In a major parliamentary election upset, ruling party leader
Tommy Turnquest and his deputy lost their seats in a landslide for the opposition Progressive
Liberal Party.

Preliminary official results from polling stations Thursday night gave 23 seats to the
Liberals, eight to the Free National Movement and three to independents. The results
were announced by electoral officials.

A record 130 candidates from the two main parties, two smaller parties and
independent platforms were competing for 40 Parliament seats. Voters cast ballot for
individual candidates and not for parties.

The results also showed Foreign Minister Janet Bostwick -- the first woman elected
to Parliament 20 years ago -- losing to the Liberals, along with House of Assembly
leader Italia Johnson.

The Liberals led Bahamas to independence in 1973 and were routed in disgrace 10
years ago amid charges then Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling had taken bribes
from Colombian drug lords. The charges were never proven.

"I'm very much surprised and I'm shocked and disappointed," Free National
Movement supporter Eleanor Penn said amid an explosive mood of disbelief and
anger at the party's headquarters, where one woman burst into tears.

Outside, Liberal Party supporters took to the streets in an early show of victory,
honking car horns in cavalcades that blocked downtown streets.

Official results are expected Friday.

There were no immediate declarations from either Turnquest or Liberal Party leader
Perry Christie, a lawyer who appears poised to become the next prime minister.

The rout of the National Movement appeared to reflect opposition charges that it
was elitist, had ignored the needs of the smaller islands and poorer people, and was
selling out the country to foreign interests.

Preliminary numbers announced by presiding officers at polling stations gave
Turnquest 1,621 votes to 1,767 for the Liberal's Keod Smith, an attorney who had
accused his opponent of trying to bribe voters in the Mount Mariah constituency.

Charges of corruption have dogged Turnquest, a millionaire banker, throughout the
campaign. Among them were claims he gave air-conditioning contracts at inflated
prices to party supporters.

It was unclear what his defeat would mean for leadership of the National Movement.
Outgoing Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham had announced his retirement after 10
years at the helm of this archipelago of more than 700 islands that begin off the
coast of Florida.

The Bahamas has become one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean from
offshore banking and tourism.

The Free National Movement had 35 seats, Christie's Liberals four and the Coalition
for Democratic Reform one. The Democratic Reform's seat also went to the

Two former ministers who left the party after Turnquest was appointed the leader in
August won their seats running as independents, according to initial results. They are
former Agriculture Minister Pierre Dupuch and former Attorney General Tennyson

Voters had lined up in the hundreds to cast ballots at polls that opened at 8 a.m. and
closed at 6 p.m. There were 144,883 voters registered and 90 percent participated in
1997 elections.

 Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.