Christie Bahamas PM for 2nd time

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The leader of The Bahamas' former main Opposition party Perry Christie has been sworn in as prime minister, promising to strengthen the tourism-dependent economy, reduce crime and improve prospects for the unemployed.


Christie led his Progressive Liberal Party to victory in Monday's general elections over Hubert Ingraham's ruling faction.


At his oath of office ceremony on Tuesday, Christie said he will "exert every effort to alleviate the problem of joblessness" over the next five years. The unemployment rate has risen to nearly 15 per cent.


Local media say exit polling showed Christie's party won at least 29 of the 38 seats in Parliament. The official tally is pending. Ingraham conceded defeat after polls closed and announced his retirement from politics.


Christie previously served as prime minister from 2002 to 2007. His Progressive Liberals and Ingraham's Free National Movement have dominated political life in the country since it won independence from Britain in 1973.


"The Progressive Liberal Party has won the election," Ingraham told supporters at party headquarters. "I want to publicly congratulate (Christie's) party."


Ingraham, who has served in Parliament for 30 years, won his seat but said he would retire anyway and return to private life.


Ingraham, who had been in power since 2007 and previously led the islands from 1992 to 2002, said before the vote that times have been challenging for residents of the archipelago of 700 islands off Florida's east coast.


The unemployment rate has risen to nearly 15 per cent in the country of about 350,000 people and foreclosures have increased. There were a record 127 murders last year, roughly 30 more than the previous year.


When Ingraham defeated Christie's party in 2007 elections, he seized on scandals involving Christie's Cabinet, including the resignation of the immigration minister over claims he fast-tracked the residency application of the late Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith.


During this year's campaign, Christie and his party colleagues asserted that Ingraham's administration had ignored social needs and the long-term growth of the islands' tourism-dependent economy. His party has vowed to safeguard the vital tourism sector, double the nation's investment in education and job training, reduce energy costs and effectively battle crime.


Christie, who was Ingraham's law partner early in their careers, has also said he supports oil exploration in its territorial waters. Ingraham said in April that he opposed oil drilling because a spill would pose a threat to the environment and the tourism and fishing industries. He later backtracked, saying he would consider it under certain conditions.


A new party, the Democratic National Alliance, also fielded candidates Monday in the 38 parliamentary districts but it appeared the party did not win a seat.


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