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Activist Raymond Davis throws his hat into by-election

Raymond Davis

The battle for Southampton West Central has become a three-way fight with independent reformer Raymond Davis confirming he will run in the by-election.

Senator Charlie Swan is defending the United Bermuda Party's 142-vote majority against Progressive Labour Party candidate Marc Bean.

Mr. Davis, who had formed the All Bermuda Congress (ABC) which promised to field candidates in the last Election until a last-minute change of heart, expects to win.

He believes the hard-core party vote stands at about 500 in the seat, with the majority of that going to the UBP, and so is hoping to pick up around 300 to 400 floating votes and top the poll. Both parties are split, said Mr. Davis, with the UBP divided between reformers and those wanting the status quo while the ruling PLP's grass roots was alienated from the leadership.

While not standing this time under the ABC banner, Mr. Davis is running on a similar programme calling for more referendums, fixed-term parliaments and the power for voters to recall unpopular MPs.

The 56-year-old entrepreneur said he hoped to get into Parliament and form an alliance with anyone who wanted genuine change – which was why he was running as an independent.

Mr. Davis, who more recently has gone under the name Khalid Wasi, explained he was using his real, legal name which would appear on the ballot paper, rather than Wasi, which he had adopted. "If I don't win then unfortunately the country would be left in its polarised entrenched position. I am calling on the wisdom of the Southampton voter to choose the way forward for the country.

"Although I have deep roots and family ties in this district, which means I have a natural affinity, it is not reason enough for me to run. "I believe the country needs a new direction and I therefore wanted to meet constituents who share the same view.

"I consider this candidacy a door way through which change and reform can be expressed. Southampton West Central is a true middle class district filled with people who understand their country.

"Our Country is politically fractured from within both the UBP and PLP leaving the Country hopelessly paralysed with no clear vision forward."

This week former UBP leader Wayne Furbert branded the selection of Senator Charlie Swan as the Opposition's candidate for the Southampton West Central by-election as a backward step, saying the party needed a candidate of stature who could be a future leader and recognise the need for change.

Mr. Furbert declined to comment on Mr. Davis' decision to stand. However former independent MP Stuart Hayward welcomed the infusion of non-partisan candidates in Bermuda's political process.

Mr. Hayward said a Davis win would be a watershed event in Bermuda politics – shaking up the PLP hierarchy and catalysing the UBP to rethink its existence but Mr. Davis was more likely to take support from the UBP as "the candidate the UBP should have chosen for the area".

Asked if Mr. Davis could win he said: "Mr. Davis is the more interesting candidate so far, and if the voters were to be guided by which candidate has the weight of fresh ideas and broad-mindedness, he would have a better than even chance.

"It's more likely, though, that partisans will hunker down and vote along party lines – certainly the parties will be pushing for that. The outcome will largely depend on Mr. Davis' resolve to make contact with the voters.

"While Mr. Davis would welcome being carried on a people-led wave for change, constituents in Bermuda have developed an expectation that they will be visited and asked personally for their votes. Making that personal ask may be Mr. Davis' best shot."

The poll for constituency 31, is set for Thursday, December 4, with Mr. Davis promising to devote a month to canvassing, once the US elections are over.

At the December election the UBP's John Brunson, whose retirement from politics sparked the by-election, won 57 percent of the vote against 42 percent for Mr. Bean. The by-election is only the second since Bermuda moved to smaller, single-seat constituencies which can turn on a handful of votes.

Before the December General Election Mr. Davis had argued that the UBP would never win and a new Opposition party was needed to replace the UBP and help smash up race-based voting patterns.

He has also argued that Bermuda's party set-up is a reflection of the Island's political immaturity and that much of the PLP vote is simply an anti-UBP vote.