Nail-biting, emotional, stressful — but how the OBA celebrated
As the final tallies from constituencies around started to come in last night, the tension was palpable at the One Bermuda Alliance headquarters, Vasco Da Gama.
Before 11pm, the results were putting the Progressive Labour Party ahead by a couple of seats, but with partial counts on the board, the race was still far too close to call. The small number of people who had gathered at the Reid Street club talked quietly among themselves, no one predicting exactly what would happen.
The news that Glenn Smith had unseated Premier Paula Cox had come in earlier, and OBA supporters gained some encouragement from that victory.
Then, at 11pm last night, a loud cheer from supporters heralded the news that the seat count showed the OBA officially tied with the Progressive Labour Party at 15 seats to 15. The OBA had lost some very close counts, but with the partial counts in, chairman Thad Hollis, in the press room huddled over a laptop that showed the official results coming in, was quietly giving his party 18 seats.
More people started to arrive at the OBA election night headquarters, and the cheers and noise level started to rise. All eyes were on Anthony Francis running against Glenn Blakeney in Devonshire North Central, whose lead was just two percent at the half way mark. Loud cheers from supporters watching the huge television on the Vasco Da Gama stage announced more victories for the OBA, interceded by groans as the PLP continued to win seats.
Things were not looking promising for the OBAs Nandi Davis at an early partial count, as she was running double digits behind strong PLP candidate, Renee Ming, and with incumbent Kim Swan in the mix, who had won the seat as a United Bermuda Party Member, there was no question in anyones mind that his decision to run as an independent had split the vote.
By 11.30pm, the OBA chairman along with party one of the original founders Michael Fahy, growing visibly more nervous and tense, were glued to the laptop screen in the press room for count updates. While at that point they were confident the OBA would tie with the PLP, that one seat that would put them over the top still seemed just out of reach.
Candidates, like Andrew Simons and Ray Charlton who lost by single digit numbers, were the topic of conversation for supporters waiting to see if that final seat would come in for the OBA.
Jeff Baron, who lost by 90 votes was none-the-less pleased with his result. In Pembroke South East, he was running against Rolfe Commissiong, who had unseated Ashfield DeVent in a PLPs candidates selection contest in the stronghold. He said it was a huge improvement on the previous election when the PLP candidate had won by more than 300 votes. For those who had lost by such tiny margins, he said: It was a valiant effort by those candidates — those close calls are always heart breaking, to take a stronghold and bring it in with single digit numbers — its profound.
As midnight approached, suddenly the gap between Nandi Davis and Renee Ming tightened. A galvanised Mr Hollis said: Just 20 votes between them!, as the excitement in the room rose. Noise levels rose too, and as television news announced the OBA victories that Mr Hollis and Michael Fahy knew were coming, the cheers grew louder. Candidates and party officials were quietly rounded up and they left the press room.
By midnight, anticipation was in the air as the room filled to capacity with people sporting red clothes and waving flags. The confidence level was now high, but an aura of nervousness still hung over the room.
OBA supporters screamed with delight when news of Nandi Daviss victory in St Georges came through at midnight, putting the OBA over the top. Flags were waved, people hugged each other, danced, and a congo line formed and weaved its way through the masses. The name on everybodys lips was the young candidate in St Georges who brought the victory home for the party. Nandis won! Nandis won!, people said in amazed tones and often through tears, hugging each other.
Erica Rance Mill, a founder of the group which started the protest movement against Dr Ewart Brown after he brought four Uighurs to Bermuda, effectively beginning the process which reached its pinnacle last night, was at the headquarters for what was now a celebration. With people cheering and dancing around her, she said through tears: Just as the people who came out to hold Dr Brown accountable two years ago, the people of Bermuda have shown they will continue to hold whomever is in Government accountable.
Today I am proud to be a Bermudian.
Grant Gibbons, who won easily in his Paget seat, said: For a brand new party to won after just 18 months is extraordinary. I think its a good sign for the country because its embraced change and I think this will help restore confidence and provide a new direction and a fresh start. Mark Pettingill, who also won a huge victory from incumbent Dale Butler, said over the heads of people who were hugging him and though tears: I am completely and totally overwhelmed.
At about 12.15am, the leader of the party, Craig Cannonier, arrived at the club to roars and cheers of welcome, turning the celebration into the equivaliant of a huge New Years Eve party where midnight keeps on coming. Veterinarian Neil Burnie had brought his horn along which he played enthusiastically, lending to the atmosphere.
The party leader and his team took to the stage to cries of OBA! OBA! and a sea of red flags carpeted the air above their heads.
Mr Cannoniers rousing speech was almost overwhelmed by the cheers in the room, but he could be heard to say: Bermuda has seen a new day! He told the crowd that politics would no longer be dictated by race or other factors. Tonight Bermuda stands a new place. We have always said that from the very beginning, this is about the people of this country. He promised higher standards that would bring transparency and accountability.
The work begins now, he said.
Mr Cannonier met with the press after his speech, and told them: Bermuda has spoken very clearly that we were looking for a solution — looking for a new way. And then, sitting with his wife and with Senator Fahy, he said: There are thousands of people on Reid Street tonight. They are very excited about whats going on. Reflecting that he was elected for the first time just a year ago, and now he is the Premier of Bermuda, he said: This is truly a humbling experience for us — I cant thank God enough for the privilege of serving this country. Bermuda can always count on me that I will rule with integrity and honesty.
But, he added: We have a lot of work to do. And the first thing in the morning we will be getting jobs back out there for Bermudians. We need to get Bermudians back to work.
Glenn Smith was the hero of the night after unseating Premier Paul Cox. His eyes filled with tears, as he was hugged by grown men who were crying too, he said: You know today I think the constituents voted for a change ... as a thrilled OBA supporter picked him up and off the ground, and swung him around. When he was redeposited again, he continued: Constituents opted for someone who represents them. Ive listened and Ive also built trust in that constituency. Im a home grown boy, and in the end thats what put me over the top.
And Bob Richards was also there, his arm around his wife. We wouldnt be here without the people of Devonshire, he said. We had a great team in Devonshire — and now we will do the best we can for the constituency.
Job one for Mr. Richards is: Looking under the hood, he said, as he left the hall with his wife to go home after the long day.
For the One Bermuda Alliance to win this election, the bar was set high. To get over it, a massive swing was needed with the majority of seats clearly in the PLP column. And until Nandi Davis was victorious in St. Georges the OBA were never certain they had it.
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