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Dunkley to be sworn in as Premier this morning

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In charge: Michael Dunkley, who is now Acting Premier, outside the Cabinet office this evening.

Premier Craig Cannonier has quit over the political firestorm surrounding the long-running Jetgate row.

His deputy, National Security Minister Michael Dunkley, has been named the news Premier, and will be sworn in this morning.

Governor George Fergusson, said last night: “The Hon Michael Dunkley has informed me, following a meeting of his party colleagues, of his intention to form a Government. I am satisfied that Mr Dunkley is best able to command the confidence of a majority of the members of the House of Assembly.

“I have asked Mr Dunkley to continue in the role of Acting Premier, pending a formal swearing in as Premier of Bermuda tomorrow morning.”

Mr Dunkley last night called it “a bittersweet moment”.

“As you’re aware Craig Cannonier stepped down tonight as Premier,” said Mr Dunkley. “I’ve just had a meeting with my parliamentary colleagues and they have supported me to be Premier going forward.”

Speaking shortly before 11pm, Mr Dunkley said he’d taken the position of Acting Premier about an hour earlier, and would be signed in as Premier in due course.

“Obviously it’s very difficult - and perhaps it’s important for me to mention that Craig and I are good friends. It’s not only difficult for him; it’s very difficult for me.”

Mr Cannonier announced he was stepping down as leader amid mounting controversy of the Jetgate affair.

And this evening he left Cabinet Office for the last time as Premier to tender his resignation to Governor George Fergusson.

The move came after several hours of meetings at Cabinet Office, which ran late into the night.

Mr Fergusson confirmed the change: “I have asked the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Michael H. Dunkley, JP, MP, to carry out the role of Acting Premier on an interim basis.”

Mr Cannonier will continue to serve as an OBA MP.

Prior to the announcement, one source said that Mr Cannonier was “finished” as leader — and that there was “no way back” from the Jetgate controversy.

Earlier, the writing was on the wall as Mr Cannonier’s Parliamentary colleagues failed to line up behind their embattled leader — and took a “wait and see” approach as party chiefs carry out an internal investigation into the year-long row over a trip to see wealthy Maryland-based Nathan Landow aboard the tycoon’s private jet.

Leah Scott — who publicly apologised to her constituents over the affair — said she had “no comment” on whether Mr Cannonier should stand down.

She added she had no plans to quit the OBA whip or politics over Jetgate and said: “At this time, I’m not.”

But Ms Scott, the junior Education Minister, declined to voice support for Mr Cannonier to stay on at Cabinet Office.

OBA backbencher Susan Jackson said: “I really believe in the internal review. I know there are people looking into this in great detail and we know the chairman will report when the results are available and I’m going to wait for that.”

Ms Jackson also declined to say what her political future might be.

“I was elected by the constituents of Pembroke South West and I would have to speak to them and seek the direction of my constituency,” she said.

Former Environment Minister Sylvan Richards, now junior Home Affairs Minister, added: “I’m not making any comments on what’s going on with the OBA at the moment.”

OBA backbencher Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, when asked if Mr Cannonier should go, said: “I would prefer to answer that question later.”

She added: “One has to think long and hard and not take anything lightly — time is needed by me in order to be comfortable.”

Devonshire North West backbencher Glen Smith also declined to comment on Mr Cannonier — but said: “I would not drop out.”

Jeanne Atherden, the backbench MP for Pembroke West, added: “I’m not prepared to give any comment at the current time.”

When asked if she would consider her future with the party, she said: “I would have the same response. To talk about anything we’re doing right now is not productive.”

The crisis deepened last week after Mr Landow confirmed he and a group of other US businessmen had donated around $300,000 to assist the 2012 OBA election campaign — although the cash was reported to have been given to a group called the Bermuda Political Action Club and not directly to the OBA.

Three months after the December 2012 election victory, Mr Cannonier, along with Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and Attorney General Mark Pettingill, as well as the Premier’s business manager Stephen DaCosta, flew for a meeting in the US with Mr Landow and his associates.

Mr Cannonier repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — but the pressure on him and the party, elected on promises of clean and open government — proved too much to stand.

Premier Craig Cannonier, seen here with OBA chairman Thad Hollis after a three-hour emergency between One Bermuda Alliance MPs and members of the OBA executive at the party’s headquarters in Hamilton on Saturday afternoon, resigned this evening. (Photo by Akil Simmons)