Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reflections of the 2007 general election in The Bahamas

Remembering the close 2007 general election

thenassauguardian editorial

Nassau, The Bahamas

Many have forgotten just how close the 2007 general election was.  Some have held on to misconceptions about that race for five years.  We recently witnessed a young Bahamian, who is keenly interested in politics, argue that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the popular vote in 2007, but lost the seat count.  That is incorrect.

The Free National Movement (FNM) defeated the PLP by 3,976 votes in 2007.  The FNM won 23 seats and the PLP 18.  In New Providence, the two parties fought to a virtual tie.  The FNM beat the PLP in our main island by only 1,624 votes.  In the Family Islands the FNM won by 2,352 votes.

The FNM did not win a majority of votes in that election.  The FNM ended up with 49.8 percent of the votes counted; the PLP with 46.96 percent of the vote.  Of the 41 seats contested in 2007, 10 constituencies were decided by 100 votes or less.

This race was quite a fight.  The people did not overwhelmingly want one party over the next.  It was our closest election in the popular vote since the dead heat of 1967 when the PLP secured 18,895 votes and the United Bahamian Party (UBP) 18,824 votes – a margin in favor of the PLP by only 71 votes.

For the PLP this election is a defining moment.  The party has lost three out of the last four elections.  It has been descended from the mountaintop of Bahamian politics where it was once perched during the golden years of Sir Lynden Pindling.  A fourth loss in five years would indicate a fundamental disconnect between the post-Pindling leaders of the PLP and the electorate, especially when that electorate has the choice on the other side of Hubert Ingraham.

No one energizes the PLP base more than Ingraham, a man some opposition supporters call every unholy name in the book.  However, in a direct election when it was only Ingraham and a PLP leader battling against each other, the PLP has never defeated him in a general election.

This election is a final test of post-Pindling PLPism versus the Ingraham brand (Ingraham has said he is not running again).  The FNM leader has made the declaration that it is ‘me or them’; ‘me or Christie’.

The PLP must not underestimate Ingraham.  His brash unapologetic style evolved from the rugged circumstances many Bahamians come and came from.  He has been shaped and defined by his transition from childhood poverty to wealth and power.

In a traditional election, under the circumstances that currently exist in The Bahamas, a major crime problem, a high unemployment rate and a roadwork project that has become a fiasco of sorts, the opposition should be up significantly.  However, many feel the mood remains similar to that of 2007.  The divide between Ingraham and the post-Pindling PLP is close.

If Ingraham wins again in this environment he will not only be the man who won non-consecutive back-to-back victories, he would also be the man who deposed the entire post-Pindling ruling class of the PLP.  The then opposition, having lost four of five elections, would then know that what it is, who it is, is not what the people want as compared to Pindling’s great pupil.

Much is on the line on May 7.  Legacy is at stake.

Apr 24, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial