By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie rang the proverbial bell yesterday morning, announcing that the 2017 election will be held on Wednesday, May 10.
His televised address, given live at the Office of the Prime Minister, came moments after Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade, in his capacity as provost marshal, read proclamations outside the House of Assembly from Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling dissolving Parliament.
Mr Christie said he is confident the election will be free and fair and will follow a spirited and peaceful campaign that is consistent with this country’s political traditions.
“Earlier today, just a short while ago, the present Parliament was ofﬁcially dissolved,” Mr Christie said. “Every seat in the House of Assembly is now vacant.
“It is now left to you, the citizenry of our beloved nation, to decide who will fill those seats in the next House of Assembly. In doing so, you will also be deciding who will form the government of the Bahamas for the next five years.
“You will make that momentous decision in what I earnestly hope and pray will be free and fair elections following a spirited but peaceful campaign. Let us contest the forthcoming elections with all the vigour at our command.”
“Let us do so, however, with respect for the human dignity of our opponents and with respect for the traditions we all hold dear.
“We are one of the oldest democracies in our hemisphere. Our Parliament traces its history back hundreds of years.
“Let us by our conduct in the general election campaign that ofﬁcially starts today prove ourselves worthy of the great democratic traditions of free, fair and peaceful elections that have made our country the marvel of nations around the world.
“I have every conﬁdence that we shall.
“And so, my fellow Bahamians, it’s over to you now. Together you will decide the way forward. You will do so in general elections that will take place throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas on Wednesday, May 10, 2017,” Mr Christie said.
While many were looking forward to Mr Christie’s announcement, not everyone was happy with the date chosen, as it coincides with the anniversary of the deaths of Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines aboard HMBS Flamingo.
Some people called into The Tribune yesterday to complain about the government’s oversight in this regard.
On May 10, 1980, after arresting two Cuban fishing vessels near the Ragged Island chain, Able Seaman Fenrick Sturrup, 21, Marine Seaman Austin Rudolph Smith, 21, Marine Seaman David Allison Tucker, 21, and Marine Seaman Edward Arnold Williams, 23, were killed when Cuban jets fired on and sank HMBS Flamingo.
Observers recognise the tragic event as not only a defining moment in the history of the embryonic RBDF, but also for the relatively newly independent Bahamas. On the anniversary, officials normally hold a brief ceremony at the RBDF base in honour of the marines.
Meanwhile, both major parties have ratified all 39 of their candidates.
Up to press time yesterday, however, it was not clear when candidates’ nomination day would be.
The number of registrants for the election is more than 170,000, with Monday being the final day for registration.
So far, CARICOM and the United States have accepted invitations to observe this year’s election.
The Progressive Liberal Party, which won 29 seats in 2012 compared to the Free National Movement’s nine is attempting to buck a trend that’s been unfavourable to governing parties in this country’s recent history:
Bahamians have voted out the incumbent party in the past three consecutive elections.
So far, Mr Christie has boasted of the competency of his team of candidates, emphasising that they are equipped to build on his administration’s successes.
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis, however, has waged a campaign portraying the Christie administration as bumbling and unsuccessful.
Among the various smaller political parties vying for votes, the Democratic National Alliance is the one expected to have the greatest impact, although many concede that the party faces an uphill battle against the two major parties.