Bahamas: Bloggers Comment on Election Results

The result of Monday's general elections in the Bahamas has given the country a new government: the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which previously occupied the opposition bench in Parliament, was voted into power in what bloggers are calling a “landslide” victory. Rick Lowe at Weblog Bahamas gave a quick overview of the results:

Reports are the PLP have won at least 27 of the 38 seats and will form the new government of The Bahamas defeating the governing FNM [Free National Movement].

The upstart DNA [Democratic National Alliance] did not win a seat but might have been the spoilers for a couple of the seats that were expected to be won by the FNM. However, I do not think they caused the FNM to lose.

Congratulations to Mr. Perry Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party.

His gracious congratulations to the winning party came a day after he wrote this post, in which he took issue with the now-Prime Minister Perry Christie's brother “attempt[ing] to defend [the former's] economic record” by quoting the blogger “completely out of context” in his capacity as a fiscal expert:

The point being made at the time, (February 2012), was that even with such high revenue as a result of the world's super charged economy back then, it was egregious for government to be running such huge deficits. It's patently clear this was not defending the governments fiscal or economic policies.

Mr. Christie has every right to defend his perception of his brother's economic track record, but that does not give him the right to distort comments from other people.

One priority of any government should be intellectual honesty so they do not make the same mistakes twice.

On election day itself, Blogworld posted some musings about different factors that would likely have an impact on the outcome:

This is the most fascinating election period that has occurred in a long, long time, and because every prediction out there has to contend with a new, unfamiliar curve ball: the rise of the third party movement.

Note I didn’t say the DNA. That’s because the Democratic National Alliance is just capitalising on something that has changed in the country, something that I believe is going to continue to grow, even if the two-party acolytes succeed in killing the DNA off. It’s the fact that the split between two major parties in The Bahamas has developed almost by default. Its roots are in that most ancient and powerful division in our nation: the centuries-long categorisation of Bahamians of colour as “natives” (white Bahamians were “residents”) whose purpose was to serve their betters—not to lead. The FNM-PLP split, for better or for worse, is buried in this dichotomy, and for decades one could fairly safely assume that PLP supporters tended towards the privileging of black Bahamians, while FNM supporters advocated the One Bahamas movement (by which I mean the recognition that Bahamian and black are not necessarily synonymous). As a result, anyone who has voted in two or more elections should recall that no election season till this one has been allowed to pass without the invocation of race—whether from rally platforms, in letters to the editor, or by reference to the American TV miniseries Roots.

The third party movement has queered that pitch. The 2012 election is historic in any number of ways, but one of the most significant is that I have not noticed any real reference to race in the campaigns…The simple fact is that race is no longer a major issue for most Bahamians. I am not saying that it is no longer relevant in our society; what I am suggesting that it is no longer a primary determinant of one’s ability to succeed in The Bahamas. And because of that, the principles on which both the FNM and the PLP were founded are growing obsolete, and both parties have for some time been losing their ‘base’.

The post continued:

There’s something else that’s important here, and something else that the pundits appear to have overlooked. The greatest obstacle to the ability of a third party to gain traction among Bahamian voters was its ability to get its message out. Until the by-election in Elizabeth in 2010, third parties needed considerable sums of money simply to make their voices heard. The advent of Facebook and Twitter, however, has changed the ground completely…much of what has enabled the green wave to continue to gather has been the presence of third-party candidates on the internet, their activity, their accessibility, and their willingness to engage in dialogue with potential voters. This is quite different from the traditional Voice-of-God politics that the older parties continue to practise.

Because of that, I think this election is too close to call. I believe anything could happen when the results start coming in an hour from now. Anything. A landslide victory for the FNM, say with the 4 x 7 sum of 28 seats? Sure. A landslide victory for the PLP, with the same numbers? Definitely. A split house, with (say) a tie between the FNM and the PLP, with the DNA holding the balance? Possible. A minority or coalition government, with the DNA calling the shots? Even that.

As it turned out, her second prediction was the most accurate. Weblog Bahamas concurred that the election was a “landmark” one, saying:

This particular Election, unlike the 1992 Election, demonstrated a coming of age for the Bahamian people (c.f. 1992, when we embarked on a course of political maturity, having harboured a single political party for far too long, so were mere political adolescents in the process).

What 2012 shows, however, is that the process is complete and we, as a people, are finally mature politically.

The blog, in a post by Edward Hutcheson, also suggested that this was “an historic opportunity for Mr. Perry Christie”:

Mr.Christie is getting a chance that few men get so late in life, and his effective use of this opportunity will require that he takes a few pages out of the political playbook of his outgoing nemesis.

The promises made, the grandiose ‘belief driven campaign’, the pastoral crew who have gone on record as wanting to get even with those who have done them wrong, the MP’s who think they have an ordained right to be Cabinet ministers, these and many other demands will require a Percival Gladstone Christie that we may have envisioned but never seen. He can play it safe and let it be business as usual, but to the miss the opportunity of being counted among the number that only Bahamians can number? To be mentioned in the same breath as Pindling and Ingraham will take putting “believing” and ‘putting Bahamians first’ into a context where there is no separation between what a leader is saying and what he is prepared to do for all Bahamians.

But there was another outcome of these elections that bloggers have been discussing – the resignation of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham as leader of the Free National Movement and his announcement that “he will not be sworn in as the member of Parliament for North Abaco and he will not swear in as leader of the opposition”. Larry Smith at Bahama Pundit commented:

Of course, Ingraham has been down and out before – in 2002, when the entire FNM cabinet was wiped out. But this time there will be no return – age and circumstance will see to that…In addition to doing the right thing and resigning as party leader, Ingraham also said he would not take up his North Abaco seat, throwing the FNM into an immediate leadership quandary…

Ironically (and sadly for some), Ingraham's retirement from public life came only one day after he asked the Bahamian people to give him a final chance to complete ‘the work of my lifetime’, by re-electing the FNM to a fourth non-consecutive term.

Ingraham's swan song as prime minister was a time of immense progress and much-needed infrastructural investment. But the fall-out from the Great Recession also made it a time of economic stress for average Bahamians, who expressed their discomfort by voting in sufficient numbers against the party in power.

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