HAMILTON, Bermuda — Premier David Burt on Friday named October 1 as the date for fresh general elections on the British Overseas Territory (BOT), nearly two years ahead of the constitutional deadline.
In the last general election, held in July 2017, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) defeated the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) by 24 seats to 12 and added an extra seat in a subsequent by-election to extend its overall House majority to 14.
“In accordance with the Bermuda constitution, the Governor has accepted my advice to hold a general election on October 1, Premier Burt said, adding that the election, which had not been due until 2022, – would help the island to focus on rebuilding its battered economy and creating more opportunities for Bermudians.
“The prospect of a series of by-elections does not represent the best use of the public purse at this time but a general election by which the people of Bermuda will safely cast their votes will allow us as a community to devote our efforts to the rebuilding of our economy and the creation of greater opportunity for Bermudians who have shown strength and commitment to each other during this challenging period.”
At least one by-election was pending after the OBA’s Trevor Moniz retired from his House of Assembly seat in Smith’s West.
The PLP first came to power in 1998 when it ousted the now defunct United Bermuda Party (UBP), which had been in power since party politics were introduced here in 1968.
The PLP remained at the helm until it narrowly lost the 2012 election to the OBA, which had been formed only the previous year in a merger between most remaining UBP MPs and the short-lived Bermuda Democratic Alliance, headed by former Premier and current Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier.
Cannonier has said he expects other sitting OBA parliamentarians to step down.
Burt said that as the government entered its fourth year “an important economic choice” had to be made, asking, “do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on three, four, five or more by-elections and then have to pay for a general election?
“Or, is it more financially prudent to just go ahead and call a general election and allow those MPs who wish to retire the opportunity to do so?
“I chose the option that saves Bermudian taxpayers money. I also thought about the 20 months of bickering that a series of by-elections would bring.
“Instead of subjecting Bermudians to months of division, I found it prudent to call a general election that would allow the government chosen by the people to focus squarely on our economic recovery and make tough choices,” Burt said, adding “I chose to get on with it.”
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the island’s national debt close to three billion US dollars.