HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Bermuda Premier Paula Cox faced a tough test Monday as her Progressive Labor Party sought a fourth term in power in parliamentary elections.
Cox's party has focused its campaign on its record navigating the wealthy British dependency through the global economic crisis. Candidates have touted the government's health care plans for seniors and free daycare for children while vowing to reduce a 10 percent unemployment rate.
But recent polls give an edge to the opposition One Bermuda Alliance, which says Cox's administration has mismanaged the economy, leading to increased joblessness for native islanders and rising crime. The party formed after the last elections in 2007 when the United Bermuda Party disintegrated after its third defeat at the polls.
Opposition leader Craig Cannonier has vowed to create 2,000 new jobs over the next five years and spur lasting economic growth while reducing debt. It has been campaigning under the slogan "the change Bermuda needs."
"The OBA is confident we will win the trust of the people of Bermuda to form the next government," Cannonier said.
A recent poll conducted for The Royal Gazette newspaper showed the One Bermuda Alliance with a 13 percent lead over the Progressive Labor Party.
In the outgoing Parliament, Cox's party held 24 of 36 seats.
Cox warned islanders that the opposition would move the territory backwards by making cuts to government programs for seniors, students and working families.
"We will build on the work that we have done to ensure this island's prosperity is enjoyed by all of our people," Cox said.
The ruling party has been in power since 1998 in the mid-Atlantic island chain that is a global financial hub for the insurance and reinsurance sectors and various investment funds.
A total of 43,767 people are registered to vote in the tiny territory of nearly 70,000 inhabitants, according to election officials.
There are also 15 independent candidates vying for seats in a portion of the 36 districts.