By MARGARET WEVER
2009-09-26 11:16 PM
The opposition People's Party won 48 percent of the vote in Friday's election and will control 12 of 21 legislative seats, according to results released Saturday by the Elections Council.
"I am convinced we will make Aruba a happy island again," People's Party leader Mike Eman said as thousands of people unfurled the party's green flag and set off firecrackers to celebrate.
Oduber's People's Electoral Movement, which has held power since 2001, won 36 percent of the vote and will hold 8 seats. The last spot went to the Democratic Party.
Eman's party won in part on promises to eliminate the 3 percent cumulative tax on local businesses and to lower inflation on the Dutch Caribbean island, a tourism-based economy that is dependent on imports and known for high prices.
Eman also pledged to address concerns about lagging tourism _ down 5 percent in the first half of the year _ as well as impending layoffs by Valero Energy Corp., which owns the island's refinery.
San Antonio-based Valero has said it will dismiss several hundred contract workers at the refinery, which has been closed since mid-July. It has not decided the fate of 780 permanent employees there.
The Elections Council said 85 percent of 64,600 voters participated in Friday's vote. It expects to certify results by Tuesday.
Aruba obtained full autonomy in its internal affairs when it separated from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, but the Dutch government still oversees defense and other areas.