Today is Nomination Day when more than 130 candidates in the upcoming general elections, ranging in age from 26 to 65, are to officially launch their campaigns to contest the 40-seat House of Assembly.
Candidates must pay a deposit of $400 cash, in Bahamian currency, when they present themselves to Returning Officers in the respective constituencies they are contesting.
And, in accordance with the Public Disclosure Act, candidates are also required to present a declaration of their financial assets and liabilities.
Furthermore, candidates are required to present their declaration papers, signed by a Justice of the Peace, stating that they are qualified by law to be elected to the House of Assembly.
Nominations papers are to be signed by at least five persons registered to vote in the constituency being contested.
Doors to the 40 polling divisions in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands are set to open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon today.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham will nominate in his North Abaco Constituency.
Free National Movement Leader Tommy Turnquest, candidate for Mt. Moriah will nominate at Government High School at 10:20 a. m.
Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie, candidate for Farm Road Constituency will nominate at 10 a.m. at C.R. Walker Secondary School.
Leader of the Coalition + Labour, Dr. B. J. Nottage, the candidate for the Kennedy Constituency will nominate at the Bahamas Technical & Vocational Institute at 10 a.m.
And, Leader of the Bahamas Democratic Movement Cassius Stuart will nominate in the St. Margaret Constituency.
Today is also a significant time for new candidates, as it marks the official start of their political careers.
Many of the FNM and PLP candidates are quite familiar with the nomination process, having gone through the exercise in several general elections.
The oldest candidate is FNM candidate C. A. Smith, 65, the incumbent for Pine Ridge Constituency in Grand Bahama. The youngest is BDM candidate Euthale Miller, 26, for Garden Hills Constituency.
Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel expressed some concern over the nomination process being held at a few public schools. He urged candidates to use their discretion so as not to disrupt school hours.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports Cresswell Sturrup confirmed that the Parliamentary Commissioner had requested the use of several public schools for Nomination Day. But he quickly added that he was not concerned about the school day being disrupted.
Sturrup also told The Guardian that principals have been advised to "make space available" for the three-hour process.
For the 1997 General Elections, there were 99 persons who put themselves forward on Nomination Day held February 26.
Bethel said that he would not be able to confirm exactly how many candidates are running in the May 2, 2002 elections until after the nominations are closed. He also said that sometime after the process, he would officially release the assets and liability records of each candidate.
The FNM has ratified 40 candidates. The PLP Council met last night to make a final determination of how many candidates it would run in the elections. The Coalition + Labour ratified 28 candidates, and the BDM, 12 candidates.
The $400 deposit would be returned if the candidate receives more than one sixth of the votes cast on election day, Bethel said.
Nomination Day in the Bahamian political culture, officially kicks off the election campaign. Candidates normally come out with fanfare; supporters don paraphernalia and hoist placards to display their loyalty.
According to Article 47 of The Constitution, a person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly if he or she is a citizen of The Bahamas at the age of 21 or older. The person must have resided in The Bahamas for not less than one year immediately before the date of nomination.
Disqualification for elections to the House of Assembly, according to Article 48 (1) states, among other things, that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly who has been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in The Bahamas and has not been discharged; not certified to be insane or otherwise; not sentenced to death by a court in The Bahamas, or is serving a sentence of imprisonment exceeding 12 months imposed on him or her by the court.
Another reason a person can be disqualified as a Member of the House is if he or she is convicted of any offence relating to elections; is a member of the Senate; or is interested in any government contract and has not disclosed the nature of such contract of his/her interest therein by publishing a notice in the Gazette within one month before the day of the election.