NASSAU, Bahamas, May 1, CMC – Bahamians begin voting for a new government on Tuesday under the “Advance Poll” system with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham stressing that it is important for voters to show the world that democracy in The Bahamas continues to thrive.
In a nationwide radio and television address on Monday night, Ingraham told nationals that he had elected to address them on the eve of the “historic advance poll” because he wanted to express his “appreciation for the strong democratic ties that bind us and to give credit to you, the Bahamian people, for the progress we continue to make through fair, open and transparent elections”.
Ingraham said that previously the Advanced Poll was only for uniformed officers and those working in the polls.
“This year, private citizens who are unable to vote on Election Day, Monday, May 7 were permitted to register to vote on the Advanced Poll. They applied in large numbers and I am pleased to report that 7,865 voters may mark their X for the candidate of their choice in the advance poll. Of this number, more than 4,000 would not have been eligible to vote in an Advance Poll previously,” he told the nation.
Ingraham said that people taking the opportunity to vote in the Advance Poll “include for the first time, persons scheduled for medical care next week and others who work for The Bahamas government abroad or students studying abroad.
“This is a great advance in our democracy; a true demonstration of the maturing process of our democracy which I am proud to say came on my watch.”
The Department of Voter Registration said locations within two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are included in the number of venues for Bahamians residing overseas.
It said that Bahamians residing in Jamaica can cast their ballot at the Graduate Conference room of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), while those residing in Trinidad and Tobago could vote at the Eric Williams Medical Complex between the hours 8.00 AM to 6.00 PM (local time).
At least three political parties including Ingraham’s ruling Free National Movement (FNM); the main opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Democratic National Alliance are contesting the 38 seats at stake in the polls.
Ingraham reminded voters that while elections “are a time of high energy, strong feelings, heavy discussions and sometimes seemingly overwhelming pressure; do not allow yourselves to be overwhelmed by the process, rather hold true to your Christian values.
“Encourage and support each other and appreciate and respect the rights of others. This is the time to exhibit our positive talents, express our views in constructive ways, consider the options and elect the candidates and Party that you feel will best serve our Bahamaland.”
He said this is the first time ever that general elections are being observed by observer missions from the United States of America and from the Organization of American States.
The US Mission comprises 36 observers. The OAS Observer Mission comprises 16 representatives from a number of member states including Guatemala, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, the USA, Canada, Argentina, Grenada, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Switzerland, Peru, and Barbados.
“We wish to conduct orderly, peaceful elections and I ask that all citizens conduct themselves accordingly. Ensure that we continue to conduct ourselves in the best traditions of our ancestors and show the world how safe, open and transparent elections are done Bahamian style,” he added.