Voters cast ballots in twin by-elections

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Voters braved early-morning showers on Thursday as they went to the polls to cast their ballots in twin by-elections in which the ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) is widely tipped to wrest one of the seats from the opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA).
The PLP defeated the OBA by 24 seats to 12 in a landslide general election last July,which ended the OBA’s one term in office   and is looking to increase its advantage in the House of Assembly.
The absence of independents, who have done poorly in recent elections, means the fight is between the two main parties in Paget East and Warwick North East.
Polls in the two parishes, which are neighbours, opened at 8 a.m. (local time) and will close at 8 p.m. with results expected before midnight.
Political commentator Charles Jeffers, a former leader of the now defunct National Liberal Party, said on the eve of the polls – “My concern is that our lack of a strong opposition could really mislead the governing party, who might feel they have carte blanche to do whatever they wish.
“It would be interesting to see what percentage of swing voters there are. There are some who, if one party is in power, would vote the other way just to change things around.If the opposition are diminished much more, it will be difficult for them to rebuild.”
Thursday’s by-elections stems from the resignation of   Jeff Baron, 42, who quit his Warwick seat suddenly to spend more time with his family, and the announcement from 65-year-old Dr Grant Gibbons, his OBA colleague, that he was retiring after 25 years in politics and giving up his Paget East seat.
In Paget East, the OBA’s Scott Pearman, a 46-year-old lawyer, is taking on the PLP’s Curtis Richardson, an architect.
Paget East has been a stronghold of the OBA and previously the United Bermuda Party, which ran the country for 30 years until it was toppled by the PLP in 1998.
The PLP is eyeing victory in Warwick North East, where its candidate Curtis Dickinson, a 52-year-old bank executive, is taking on Justin Matthias, the OBA’s 25-year-old deputy chairman and head of the party’s youth wing who has been sitting as a senator.
Baron, once touted as a future party leader, held Warwick North East MP by 65 votes against the PLP’s Kathy Lynn Simmons, now the Attorney-General who sits in the Senate, in last year’s general election.
The seat was won in 2012 by the OBA’s Mark Pettingill, a former Attorney-General, who quit the party in March 2017, Pettingill defeating the PLP’s Dale Butler by 141 votes.
The PLP already holds the other four seats in Warwick.
In Bermuda’s last by-election, held in December 2016, Neville Tyrrell retained Warwick South Central for the PLP after former Opposition Leader Marc Bean, who had been on medical leave following a stroke, retired.

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