10 Jun 2017

America's Cup becomes pawn in Bermuda politics

8:43 pm on 10 June 2017

The America's Cup has become a pawn in local politics, with Bermuda's Premier dissolving Parliament and calling a snap election for 18 July.

Bermuda's Premier Michael Dunkley dissolved Parliament and called a snap election for 18 July.

Bermuda's Premier Michael Dunkley dissolved Parliament and called a snap election for 18 July. Photo: AFP

The Premier, Michael Dunkley, is claiming his One Bermuda Alliance has revitalised the economy, and urged Bermudians to reject the politics of destabilisation "just as the island is taking centre stage before the world, just as we're taking flight".

His not unexpected decision to name an election date is not directly related to the Cup activity, but was to dodge a motion of no-confidence in the assembly, which his party was at risk of losing.

The Bermuda government has spent up to $US77 million securing the rights to host and stage the 35th America's Cup, and many locals believe the money would have been better spent on social infrastructure such as schools.

The government believes the island nation will gain a $US250m economic benefit, both directly and as a result of a hoped for increase in tourism and superyacht visits.

Much of the political rhetoric is around the disputed concept that there are "Two Bermudas". One predominantly white and wealthy, the other largely black and less well-off.

Bermudians categorise themselves officially as either black or white, but the descriptions mask much greater ethnic diversity.

The opposition Progressive Labour Party or PLP has pledged to address the divide.

"The gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' has increased, our schools have fallen into disrepair and our children and teachers are suffering," the PLP's leader David Burt was reported as saying in Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper.

Mr Dunkley urged those who don't yet feeling touched by economic improvement to be patient.

"We stand for one Bermuda, not two. We stand for inclusion, and we deeply oppose the politics of division. We believe that by ensuring opportunity and fairness in all things, we can get to that better place where the possibilities for Bermudians are limitless," he said in the Royal Gazette.

The election date is three weeks after the end of the America's Cup, with the future of the event in Bermuda hanging on whether Team New Zealand wins it, and takes it back to New Zealand.

The other five teams have agreed to it remaining in Bermuda, subject to a new host agreement being signed.

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