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Finance Minister soars ahead in race to be new Premier


NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Finance Minister soars ahead in race to be new Premier

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5:40, Friday, Oct. 8 – Finance Minister Paula Cox has widened her lead in a new opinion poll to succeed Dr Ewart Brown as Premier when he steps down later this month.Seventy-seven per cent of supporters of the ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) say they want Cox to be elected at the party’s annual conference, compared with 10 per cent for backbencher Dale Butler and five per cent for the third challenger, Terry Lister. Butler and Lister are both former cabinet ministers.Cox, who has been Brown’s deputy for the past four years, also comes out on top in the poll among the population as a whole, with 42 per cent saying she should be the next Premier.Butler scores 25 per cent from across the island, gleaning much of his backing from supporters of the two opposition parties, the United Bermuda Party (UBP) and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA). Lister gets 12 per cent from across the island.The Finance Minister’s popularity across the island dipped earlier this year when she released a much-criticised national budget and described herself as a “cog in the wheel” unable to refuse ministers’ requests for more money.Lister had hoped to gain ground by staging a public campaign with a succession of town hall meetings designed to get a mandate to head the government.But the poll shows Cox, who is said to have been complimented by PLP members for holding her campaign with delegates behind closed doors, is now further in front than three months ago.In a previous survey in July, 38 per cent of the population wanted Cox to win the leadership race, compared with 37 per cent for Butler and eight per cent for Lister.Meanwhile, the number of voters sitting on the fence has shot up as the public awaits the result of the PLP’s leadership battle, according to another poll.Forty per cent of people say they don’t know how they would vote if a general election took place today — nearly double the number who were undecided in the previous poll in July.The PLP maintains a lead over the UBP, which ran the country for 30 years until being ousted from power by the PLP in 1998, but both have slipped in the ratings, the PLP from 34 to 27 per cent and the UBP from 25 to 20 per cent.Brown, who is also Tourism and Transport Minister, is quitting politics altogether.If Cox is chosen she will become Bermuda’s third female Premier. The UBP’s Pamela Gordon was the first, followed by Jennifer Smith, who led the PLP to its first election victory 12 years ago. (CMC)

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