UBP and BDA agree in principle to merge - sources
Senior figures in the United Bermuda Party and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance have reached an agreement in principle to form a new Opposition, according to sources.
Some say an amalgamation is now just a matter of crossing the ‘T's and dotting the ‘I's but insiders predict an imminent official announcement is unlikely and may not happen before next month's Budget.
It's understood UBP leader Kim Swan has been absent for most of the discussions and would have virtually no chance of leading the new group.
In recent weeks, UBP Senators Michael Dunkley and Jeanne Atherden and MPs Bob Richards, Grant Gibbons and John Barritt are said to have been locked in talks with BDA leader Craig Cannonier, MPs Mark Pettingill and Shawn Crockwell, and chairman Michael Fahy.
The UBP is said to have been more aggressive in pushing for a merger. Some in the BDA are said to have concerns the new entity would be too much like the old UBP the party Mr Pettingill, Mr Crockwell and Mr Fahy resigned from in September 2009.
And yesterday's report that the nation would like Sen Dunkley to lead a merged Opposition is said to have caused more agitation in the BDA camp.
The talks are said to have centred on trying to take advantage of both parties' strengths: the youth of the BDA and the experience of the UBP.
BDA members are also said to have pressed home their dissatisfaction at the way the UBP was running before the split.
Both sides hope a unification will stave off a landslide victory for the PLP at the next general election, with the BDA and UBP both keen to avoid splitting the Opposition vote.
But any merger would leave casualties: last year's split from the UBP came after reformers expressed severe disapproval at Mr Swan's leadership. They are said to be extremely unlikely to agree to a merger with Mr Swan in charge.
And the UBP has already rolled out Erwin Adderley as a candidate in Mr Crockwell's Pembroke West seat and Jeff Sousa in Mr Pettingill's Warwick West seat. Mr Adderley and Mr Sousa would likely have to stand down as candidates if a merger takes place.
Mr Fahy and Mr Cannonier, who don't have seats in the House, are both said to be less eager to amalgamate, although sources say they may be left with little choice after the BDA scored just 70 votes at the Warwick South Central by-election and the UBP just 78, compared with 310 for the PLP.
In a poll by Mindmaps released yesterday, 51 percent of voters said they thought the two parties should merge, with 37 percent saying no and 13 percent unsure.
Sen Atherden said yesterday: “Talks have taken place off and on for quite some time, as has been widely reported and discussed.
“But we have nothing to report at this time. We have said from the start that Bermuda is not best served by a divided Opposition, and that is the foundation on which talks, such as they are, have proceeded. There is no imminent announcement planned.
“We want to do what is best for the Island and that means providing people with a realistic alternative to the Government. We want that and I'm sure the BDA wants that, though I can't speak for them. This is politics and in that mix we will try to do what is best.
“Beyond that, there is really nothing else to say.”
BDA's leadership could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mr Fahy said earlier this week that his party is open to talks with any party that has the interests of the Country at heart.
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