Thursday, December 15, 2011

Politics in The Bahamas post-Perry Christie: appears that politically, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will be at a bloody crossroad... Moving forward, the party must not—in the words of Sam Tenanhaus—become “trapped in postures of frozen light, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.”

Who's it gonna be?

The leadership showdown is turning into a 'bloody crossroad'


Nassau, The Bahamas

THE leadership showdown in the PLP will feature a line up of contenders, pretenders and a number of wannabes vying for the leadership who couldn’t convincingly serve as effective backups to Bozo the clown. In a post-Perry Christie era, one can imagine the probable leadership candidates scampering across a convention floor, all fervently seeking the support of the party’s ever ballooning contingent of stalwart councilors. No doubt, there will be a few aspirants employing Brutus’ tactics and stabbing each other in the backs with sharpened political knives.

When the leadership melee kicks off, one expects to see lots of finger-jabbing and colorful political vernacular.

Post-Christie, it appears that politically, the PLP will be at a bloody crossroad. Moving forward, the party must not—in the words of Sam Tenanhaus—become “trapped in postures of frozen light, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.”

In 2007, Bahamians expressed disillusionment with the PLP’s scandalous reign and lack of vision and voted them out of office after one term. Today, there remains some members on the party’s frontline who are among the walking wounded of our political culture and who should not be re-nominated.

A future leader of the PLP must be able to espouse a new and innovative approach to governance, one that would deepen the populace’s trust in accountable governance. A future leader must be capable of proffering a vision for empowering Bahamians, enforce ethical codes of conduct (MPs/ministers) and present a conscientious national development platform to the electorate.

Frankly, people are weary of the old ways of the PLP, top heavy with stalwart councilors who vote in lock step like assembly line drones and cultivate an atmosphere of personality cults. The supremacy of stalwart councilors within the PLP has perhaps singlehandedly retarded the advancement of the party.

Lame-duck legion

At present, there are a few in the PLP who are merely an assemblage of reprobates, head bangers and morons. Likewise, the PLP is also home to a lame duck legion of political pretenders who should not even offer in 2012, weighed against vying for the party’s leadership and seeking to possibly lead our country!

A new leader must maintain, and perhaps reconfigure, the party for it to continue on as a legitimate and credible political force. Indeed, delegates choosing a new leader must select someone who has the ability to rid the party of political dead weight and revivify the party, and the masses, once Mr Christie bids farewell to the political frontline. The prospective leader must not merely have a wide-eyed infatuation with power!

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie is a political titan who appears to be an experienced and principled gentleman. However, he lost the 2007 general election because he appeared dithery and lost control of the reins of his Cabinet.

So, who could succeed the Mr Christie?

Dr Bernard Nottage is in the twilight of his political career, with this election perhaps being his swan song—though he’s expected to retain his seat. Dr Nottage is politically astute and charismatic, a political journeyman with firm managerial skills and, since his ventures with the defunct CDR, the party’s most prominent prodigal son.

Now a senior citizen—in truth and in political terms—the leadership window for Dr Nottage is seemingly slamming shut. The good doctor has apparently peaked and will not see the Promised Land (leadership). By 2017, Nottage will likely be an outgoing figure.

Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, the deputy leader, has neither razzle nor dazzle. Davis was once thought of as merely a flimsy, smiling back-bencher who appeared inclined to quietly stand in the background. He has since repackaged himself.

Mr Davis does appear to be a one-dimensional politician who has no Cabinet experience and no notable political achievement/experience on his resume. Sources assert that he is a down-to-earth chap who didn’t have an opportunity to attend college and instead pulled himself up by his bootstraps.

Relative to public speaking, his oratorical delivery is about as explosive as a soaking wet fire cracker. If Davis’ leadership campaign is based wholly upon his oratorical ability to electrify a crowd and project his vision, his stock could be lower than the Zimbabwean dollar. I must admit that Davis’ parliamentary performance on Tuesday, during the debate on the Boundary Commission’s report, showed that at least he’s a work in progress.

Previously, Mr Davis—in the deputy leader race—ran a multifaceted campaign that was impressive as he employed much of the modern political/marketing strategies used in American political campaigns.

So, has Davis shown that he is a true successor to Mr Christie? Does he have the political appeal to win the electorate’s hearts and votes? Or, could he, like many others before him, peak at deputy leader?

Obie Wilchcombe, who was Sir Lynden Pindling’s understudy, is a dynamic and charismatic orator. Mr Wilchcombe would be a real contender in the leadership showdown. Wilchcombe is the only member of the PLP frontline who has served as party chairman, senator, MP, leader of Opposition business and minister. Frankly, he is one of the odds-on favourites to succeed Mr Christie.

Mr Wilchcombe has the public appeal and tenure to mount a successful campaign and has been an outstanding MP. He is known as a “ground hog” during political campaigns.

Fred Mitchell is not to be politically underestimated and will no doubt throw his hat into the impending leadership skirmish. Mitchell is perceived to be quite intelligent and, by many accounts, has been a superb MP. However, his detractors see him as a divisive and polarizing figure who would have to revamp his image to truly capture the overwhelming support of party delegates.

Alfred Sears, whose imminent political departure will leave the PLP without a strong leadership contender, is one of the smoother operators in the political firmament. Although his performance as Education Minister/Attorney General was solidly mediocre, he appears to be a highly intelligent and competent man of integrity who is widely respected and well-liked. Sears is seemingly a straight-shooter and the PLP should encourage him to remain on the frontline.

Shane Gibson is a long shot. Before he staggered from one blunder to another as a Cabinet minister, Gibson was seen as a young turk who could’ve succeeded Mr Christie as party leader. Today, whilst he’s purportedly a good-natured chap who is loved by his constituents, Mr Gibson is seen as a political non-event and a pariah figure within the party.

Is it true that earlier this year Mr Gibson had talks with the PM and inquired about joining the FNM?

Frank Smith is a firebrand and rank outsider who would be politically sucker punched in any leadership race. Mr Smith will likely be banished to the political wilderness after the 2012 election.

Younger leader

Post-Christie, could the leadership clash see the emergence of a leader from a younger generation of PLPs who do not currently sit in the House of Assembly?

I have gained much respect for Raynard Rigby since he spoke candidly and rationally offered constructive criticism of his party in the wake of its 2007 defeat. Cousin Raynard noted that he objected to the requirement—as party chairman—that he defend public scandals that he privately objected to; addressed campaign shortfalls and chided the party for running a poorly organized campaign; and called for the PLP to engage in mature discourse and accept criticism as not anti-PLP, but merely a differing opinion.

Formerly a clueless and bombastic talker, “cous” has rebranded himself, should be courted for a nomination and distinguished as a young turk on the fast track to leadership.

Jerome Fitzgerald admittedly boasts some electric qualities. However, Fitzgerald has become known for partisan histrionics and sometimes appears overly combative. That said, he is a political newcomer who has a rather cerebral deportment and appears to have the country’s best interest at heart.

Published on Saturday, December 3, 2011, in the column Young Man’s View, in The Tribune’s ‘The  Big T’
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