After the crushing defeat last night delivered by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and its candidate Renardo Curry in the North Abaco by-election, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis declared that “the Ingraham era is over”.
Those were the first words uttered by Minnis in an interview with The Nassau Guardian last night. His party’s candidate Greg Gomez was defeated by Curry by 854 votes, according to the unofficial results from the Parliamentary Registration Department.
“I wish him luck in his future endeavors,” Minnis added, referring to Ingraham.
“But his era is over. That’s it for him.”
Minnis went further and said: “There is only going to be one leader going forward.”
Ingraham is the only person ever to lead the FNM to a general election victory. The party won the 1992, 1997 and 2007 general elections with him as leader.
When Ingraham stepped down as FNM leader after the party lost the 2002 general election, his presence still overshadowed then party leader Tommy Turnquest. Since Ingraham announced he was leaving frontline politics on May 7, 2012, his presence has overshadowed Minnis, who succeeded him.
Minnis has also faced criticism from some in his party since the leadership transition. Some have complained that he may not have the charisma to lead the FNM to victory against the PLP.
The North Abaco by-election was the first test of Minnis’ leadership against the PLP in an election. Minnis and the FNM lost. However, they were up against a well-funded sitting government.
Asked if the loss poses any threat to his position as leader, Minnis said “not at all”.
“The FNM will continue on under one leadership. We will continue to move on,” he added.
Minnis argued that the FNM lost North Abaco because of PLP victimization. Last night he continued the charge that scores of FNMs were threatened by PLP operatives.
Minnis also defended Gomez, declaring that he was a fine candidate and the race was not won based on candidate ability.
The FNM leader pointed to the lower voter turnout as evidence of the fear felt by many North Abaco residents to turn out to vote due to what the FNM has described as aggressive PLP intimidation.
Only 3,887 of the 4,517 registered voters turned up at the polls yesterday, according to the unofficial results. In the general election, 4,130 of the 4,438 registered voters cast ballots. While 79 more people registered to vote in the by-election, 243 fewer people actually voted.
Former North Abaco MP Hubert Ingraham, who officially resigned from frontline politics on August 31, was the first to concede the FNM’s defeat. He congratulated the PLP’s candidate.
“The voters of North Abaco have decided that Mr. Renaldo Curry will become their next member of Parliament,” Ingraham said in a statement.
“I wish also to acknowledge Mr. Greg Gomez for waging a vigorous contest during the by-election campaign. He has a promising future and will continue to make us all proud.”
Ingraham represented North Abaco for 35 years. He said there is still a lot of work to be done in the area.
“I call on the government to continue these efforts. This includes working with Edison Key, and the people of North and South Abaco, in completing vital projects already in train and designed to boost Abaco’s medium and long-term development,” Ingraham said.
Echoing Minnis’ claims of victimization, the former prime minister added that he is concerned about the “numerous instances of unfair practices by the PLP and its agents during this campaign”.
“This included intimidation and threats of victimization. Moving forward, we will remain vigilant against attempts to victimize those who supported the opposition, which is their right to so do without fear or the potential of disfavor by the government of the day,” said Ingraham.
He called on the PLP to demonstrate a commitment to all Abaconians and not a select few now that the by-election is over.
Prime Minister Perry Christie rejected claims of victimization yesterday. He said the FNM ought to accept defeat and drop its “same old tire mantra of victimization”.
“The fact is they lost,” said the prime minister in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter