Cordiality prevailed despite chilly relationships

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  • It was all smiles and cordiality between the PLP's Dale Butler and the OBA's Mark Pettingill.

    It was all smiles and cordiality between the PLP's Dale Butler and the OBA's Mark Pettingill.

If one polling station across Bermuda stood out in the tension and partisan rivalry of election day, Warwick North East was the happiest on the Island.

Progressive Labour Party, independents and One Bermuda Alliance candidates were noticeably distant from one another at some stops.

But in Constituency 25’s Bright Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, as the PLP’s Dale Butler said: “Here it’s like a big family — there’s great rapport between us as candidates.”

Mr Butler greeted incoming voters alongside the OBA’s Mark Pettingill, who told The Royal Gazette: “The vibe is tremendous. I feel the change. My prediction is that Dale Butler and I will still be friends and that’s how it should be.”

The issues at stake were serious ones, Mr Butler noted that the national debt and unemployment were clearly of worry to voters.

“But today it’s just been ‘glad to see you’,” he added. “People recognise that I’ve worked hard.”

At nearby Warwick North Central, nothing chummy was in evidence between PLP candidate Lt Col David Burch and OBA hopeful Wayne Scott.

The two gave each other a wide berth, and the Colonel was in little mood to speak with members of the press.

Similarly, in Hamilton East, the governing party’s candidate Derrick Burgess and OBA challenger Peter Barrett kept a cool distance.

Silver spray-painting of East End posters for the OBA also surprised motorists, some of whom stopped to take pictures.

But overall, cordiality prevailed.

Voter turnout in Bermuda is traditionally high, and election day began with queues well in advance of 8am at most stations.

At least 30 lined up early at the Berkeley Institute, where the PLP candidate David Burt praised the qualifications of his OBA opponent Nicholas Kempe and independent candidate Philip Perinchief in Pembroke West Central, a former PLP senator.

“I see today as a celebration of democracy,” Sen Burt said. “Young and old, all get the same amount of say.”

He counted 177 voters in the first half-hour of the day.

Demographically, older voters appeared to be out in significantly greater numbers — some with canes and walkers being assisted to the polling stations.

PLP candidate for Pembroke East Central Michael Weeks observed there had been “a challenge getting younger voters” to turn out.

In Pembroke East, the OBA’s Scott Stewart commented: “To be honest, I think so far it’s an older turnout — maybe the young people are away at school, which is disappointing.

“I’ve seen a few, but by and large, it’s an older crowd.”

From district to district, contenders told reporters they were hearing the same concerns: if “cautiously optimistic” was the standard assessment of performance, the refrain of the day was “jobs and the economy” when it came to the make-or-break issues that would decide the polls.

In Devonshire North Central, the PLP’s Glenn Blakeney said: “The issue is jobs, on the parochial level and the national level ... it’s gone beyond the parochial.”

Moments later, Mr Blakeney appeared to find himself cornered by an elderly voter irate over high prices.

Neighbourhood issues continued to concern some voters, especially in the Old Town.

Said Nandi Davis, the OBA’s St George’s West challenger: “With St George’s, parochial concerns dominate. People are highly concerned about the look and condition of their neighbourhoods.”

In Devonshire East, the OBA’s Bob Richards said he had been working with Elliott Primary School to get CCTV in the area, which PLP rival Neville Tyrrell said he’d been working closely with the Public Works Minister to tackle a long-standing and vexing parochial issue: the shut-off Devon Springs Road.

Ultimately, an eleventh-hour promise by Government to get the road open after nine years of neglect failed to assuage residents.

In Southampton West Central the OBA’s Shawn Crockwell described the constituency as a patchwork of “communities and neighbourhoods that are very close-knit”, all with their own concerns — from the hopes of Church Bay residents for covered bus shelters to the continued annoyance of Evans Bay residents over the state of the area’s dock.

Fears that the healthy showing of independent candidates would split the vote ultimately proved baseless in the 2012 election except, at least for St George’s West, where Kim Swan garnered 214 votes of the 928 cast and just four votes separated the winner Nandi Davis of the OBA and loser Renee Anderson-Ming.

Southampton West Central contender Charlie Swan pinned his hopes that partisan-weary voters would take it to the polls by choosing independent candidates. It didn’t materialise.

And David Tavares in Smith’s South said he’d started his campaign based on a survey of constituents to see if they favoured a strong voice that would change party politics.

“Forty three percent were in favour, 27 thought it would split the vote and 30 percent said they were watching to see what other independent candidates would emerge,” Mr Tavares said. “All I spoke to agreed that partisan politics was not good.” Based on that, he said, “I had to offer myself as a candidate”.

Across the Island, reality said differently.

For the day’s losers, where the writing was on the wall, silence spoke volumes.

PLP candidate for Warwick West Jonathan Smith, whose bid for Constituency 28 ended in defeat, refused to speculate on the day’s turnout at 5pm.

Asked what the decisive issues for the area were, Mr Smith said: “I respect the voters too much to try to presume.”

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Published Dec 18, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 18, 2012 at 3:31 am)

Cordiality prevailed despite chilly relationships

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