Friday, May 11, 2012

The Bahamas General Election 2012: ...Reversal of Fortune

Election 2012: Reversal of fortune

By Arinthia S. Komolafe

The results of the recent general election prove that democracy is still alive and well in our nation.  In the words of the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling after having conceded defeat to Hubert Ingraham in the 1992 general election, “The people of this great little democracy have spoken in a most dignified and elegant manner.  And the voice of the people is the voice of God”.

In an earlier piece, we had referenced the Jamaican elections of December 2011 in which the ruling Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was defeated by the People’s National Party (PNP).  In the run-up to that election just like The Bahamas elections, polls had indicated that the race was close and in a dead heat.  However, the reverse would occur as the PNP would command 49 of the 63 available seats with no seats going to independents or third parties.  The challenges faced by the JLP were similar to those faced by the Free National Movement (FNM) government and not surprisingly, the outcomes have proved to be identical.

A reflection on election 2012

At this point, it is too early to state with great certainty the cause of the FNM’s defeat in the 2012 general election.  There is no doubt that the general election was hotly contested even though the number of constituencies won by the parties may not show this fact.  Apart from the long established parties of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the FNM, we saw the entrance of the newly formed Democratic National Alliance (DNA).

The DNA under the leadership of Branville McCartney capitalized on the obvious political divide of and the clamor for change by the Bahamian electorate.  However, as anticipated, votes for the DNA did not help the party win the government but rather served as spoiler of votes for the FNM and the PLP.  In the aftermath of the elections, certain political analysts have concluded that the presence of the DNA hurt the FNM more than it did the PLP based on the assumption that votes that were cast in favor of the DNA would have gone to the FNM.  This conclusion fails to explore the possibility that the DNA votes could have increased the number of PLP votes (and ultimately the number of PLP seats won) if in fact individuals voted against the FNM government and/or leadership.  However, in the absence of any scientific data to support these analyses, any subsequent conclusions are flawed.

In a public poll spearheaded by Public Domain, the results of the poll evidenced that there was an anti-government support with the FNM receiving 30.5 percent, the PLP 20.3 percent and DNA 16.5 percent.  Further, the exit polls conducted by The Tribune after the advanced polls showed the PLP ahead of the FNM significantly.  Preliminary data suggest that both the PLP and the FNM maintained their base while the DNA attained a portion of the independent and undecided votes.  It can also be argued that what separated the PLP from the FNM was that the PLP gained independent and undecided voters as well as disgruntled FNMs.

Same script, different cast

In 1992, Ingraham was successful in dethroning the most dominant political figure in Bahamian politics, the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling.  The administration had been plagued with socio-economic challenges due to effects of the drug era of the late 1970s through to the 1980s, a global recession, which at the time was termed the greatest since the Great Depression of the 1920s, and the rising cost of gas and food items.

Against this backdrop, Ingraham and the FNM campaigned against the PLP on the rising crime rate, an increasing national debt, illegal immigration and allegations of corruption and scandals.  Ingraham and the FNM promised a “government in the sunshine” that will usher in increased accountability and transparency in governance, better economic times and increased jobs, free enterprise and privatization of public entities and most notably the liberalization of the airwaves.

The Bahamian electorate, who at the time was suffering from high unemployment or underemployment and the rising cost of living, elected Ingraham and the FNM to office with the FNM defeating the PLP and claiming 32 of the 49 seats.  The FNM was subsequently granted a second mandate to govern during the general election of 1997 in a landslide victory in which the party won 34 of the 40 parliamentary seats.  Many remain of the view that Pindling’s failure to depart frontline politics and step down as leader of the opposition PLP also contributed to the resounding victory.

Two decades later, history has repeated itself.  Ingraham, faced with similar challenges that his mentor had back in 1992, was defeated resoundingly in a landslide victory by Christie in the 2012 general election.  The 2012 victory would also put to rest all questions as to whether Christie had what it took to defeat his most formidable political leader.  Just like his mentor, a decade and a half earlier, Ingraham would concede defeat in a gracious manner and would go further by announcing his immediate resignation as a member of Parliament and leader of the FNM.

Christie’s legacy term

The following words of Pindling after the PLP’s defeat in 1997 echo through time, “Today’s generation may not be so kind, but we chose to build on the past rather than destroy it.  We chose consensus and compromise over confrontation and conflict.”  The Christie administration should be guided by these words.  Christie, who has been favored to lead the final leg of the three-man political era of Pindling, Ingraham and Christie, must build upon his accomplishments and the success of his predecessors.  He must chart the course this term to build upon the legacy he started during his first term in office.  Christie is presented with an opportunity to not only cement the legacy of his predecessors but also to solidify his own lasting legacy for successive generations of Bahamians.  A definitive decision on gambling, an effective immigration policy, the expansion of access to quality education, true urban development and expansion and diversification of our economy are realistic feats that can be achieved in one term of office.

George Mackey in one of his pieces stated the following: “By the time the PLP was voted out of office on August 19, 1992, most of the planks of its initial platform, designed to address the many social and political ills that had led to its formation, had already been virtually completed.  In essence, the platform of the Quiet Revolution had run its course.  What the enlightened masses required was another vision, one that had as its primary objective their economic empowerment”.

This objective remains the same four and a half decades after the PLP started its journey in 1967.  Christie must create the environment for economic empowerment of our people.

We the Bahamian people on our part must give credit where credit is due to leaders who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our nation.  Our politics has divided us so much that we choose to focus on the failures of our leaders rather than their successes.  Now more than ever, we must be united and committed to building a stronger and better Bahamas that will once again make its mark on the world stage.  We must put our colors aside in the interest of current and future generations of Bahamians.

• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at:

May 10, 2012