Opposition wins election in Turks and Caicos

AFP , Saturday 17 Dec 2016

Turks and Caicos's main opposition returned to power Friday after sharply contested general elections in the Caribbean island chain that ended the four-year-old government of Rufus Ewing.

Ewing conceded defeat and resigned as the British overseas territory's premier as it became evident his Progressive National Party had lost its majority.

Final votes were still being counted but the opposition People's Democratic Movement (PDM) snagged at least 10 of the 15 open seats in Thursday's elections.

Fifty-two candidates, including 10 independents, were vying for seats in the 21-member House of Assembly.

Ewing failed to win his seat at-large. His Progressive National Party has claimed four seats, with votes being recounted in the final constituency.

The PDM's triumph would make party leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson the territory's first female premier.

As news of the opposition's likely success began to spread, throngs of PDM supporters gathered at the party's headquarters in Providenciales.

The PDM's platform for change resonated with voters, bringing the PNP's rule to an end.

A third breakaway party -- the Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA), led by former PDM chief Oswald Skippings -- failed to make an impact, securing a nominal number of votes.

The PDA's manifesto had immigration reform at its center, in an archipelago where locals are outnumbered by foreigners.

Thursday was the second time voters have gone to the polls in the Turks and Caicos since the end of direct British rule in 2012.

London had intervened in 2009, suspending constitutional provisions for self-rule after a commission of inquiry declared there was "systemic corruption" at the hands of the PNP government led by premier Michael Misick, who was forced to resign.

Misick was among those running for an assembly seat Thursday, even though he is currently on trial on corruption charges.

He and several members of his cabinet face multiple charges, including receiving bribes and conspiracy to defraud the government between 2003 and 2009.

Cartwright-Robinson, who has eight years of parliamentary experience including an advisory position to the British interim administration, pledged honest representation by a party with an "impeccable reputation."

She placed tackling crime and cleaning up the archipelago's world famous beaches at the top of her agenda.

Her party's tech-savvy campaign, aimed at wooing younger voters, included an online manifesto, mobile app, and eye-catching videos and posters.

Election day was peaceful with alcohol sales restricted until polling stations closed at 7:00 pm. Queues were greatly reduced from the heavy lines of the 2012 poll, which saw islanders waiting for several hours to cast their vote.

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