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FDM could be left out of debate

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The Progressive Labour Party's attempt to hold a debate between party leaders “who can form a government” was dismissed yesterday as an attempt to sideline a political challenge from the new Free Democratic Movement.

The PLP said that the party would accept offers for a national debate — but only “between leaders of political parties that are capable of forming government after the October 1 election”.

But Marc Bean, a former leader of the PLP and head of the FDM, claimed: “There seems to be a fear of the FDM participating in a national debate.”

Mr Bean said David Burt, the Premier, had “from Day 1 tried to assert two legitimate leaders of political parties, because we have only 15 candidates”.

The One Bermuda Alliance has fielded 31 candidates for the General Election to the PLP's full slate of 36.

Mr Bean said the FDM could, with “five, ten or 15 seats, with negotiation with members of either side, form a coalition government”. He added that Mr Burt wanted to “isolate” the third force in politics from national discussions as voters prepared to go to the polls.

Mr Bean said: “The Westminster system allows us to run and help shape the viable government or opposition. We are willing and able to debate under any circumstances. But we do note the Premier is trying to control the rules.”

A PLP spokeswoman said: “[Marc Bean] has as much right to be in a leadership debate as any candidate for the House of Assembly. If he wishes to engage in a debate on issues relevant to voters, he should be looking to debate those contesting the seat in which he is running.”

The OBA said last night: “We were concerned that holding a General Election during a pandemic would affect people's ability to exercise their democratic right to vote. This latest statement proves that the Premier is more concerned about consolidating power than protecting democracy.”

Craig Cannonier, the leader of the OBA, last week welcomed the prospect of a live debate with other party leaders. He said: “Let's do it. Bring it on.”

But Mr Cannonier added: “We've got three weeks left — they'll probably say it's too late now.”

The party added it would send representatives to debates that included “individuals such as leaders of minor parties”, as well as independent candidates.

The PLP spokeswoman said the party had accepted an invitation to a candidate forum organised by YouthNet, and is “happy to participate in other candidates forums which may be organised”.

David Burt, the Premier and Progressive Labour Party leader, appears to have no appetite for debating Marc Bean (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 19, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 21, 2020 at 1:14 am)

FDM could be left out of debate

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