Cable accuses PLP of ‘poor performance’ in organizing election
Opposition leader Perry Christie admitted to a U.S. Embassy official that the court challenges that followed the 2007 general election, and registration problems ahead of the election, were a blemish on his administration and a source of some embarrassment as any alleged irregularities occurred on the Progressive Liberal Party’s watch, according to one of the cables in the WikiLeaks diplomatic documents.
“His attitude does nothing to dispel the impression that pre-election maneuverings, apparently designed to magnify the advantages of incumbency, have indeed backfired badly on the PLP,” said the February 15, 2008 cable.
The cable was written after Allyson Maynard-Gibson lost the Pinewood Election challenge.
The embassy official wrote:
“The decision leaves the Ingraham government with an unassailable majority and scuppers any hopes the opposition PLP may have harbored of reversing the parliamentary balance in Election Court.
“The court accepted evidence that 110 people had voted illegally and ordered a ‘scrutiny’ of remaining valid ballots to determine the result.
“Rather than providing the opposition with a post-election victory, the outcome of the court case has instead focused attention on the impact of the previous government’s last-minute changes to constituency boundaries on the eve of elections. Top government officials blamed the late changes for confusion in the voter registration process and accused the previous government of incompetence and ill-intentions.”
The embassy official predicted at the time that FNM victories in the two Election Court challenges that remained would “likely cast further negative light on the previous government’s poor performance in organizing the election.”
The official noted that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham blamed official “ineptitude, incompetence and late boundary changes” for disenfranchising Bahamians in the May 2007 election and contributing to the post-election controversies.
He also strongly insinuated that the move was calculated to improve the incumbent party’s chances at the polls, a move which clearly boomeranged to hurt the PLP, the cable said.
It is unclear which embassy official wrote the cable, but the name of then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas Ned Seigel is written at the end of it.
The post Pinewood election challenge cable said, “The FNM now has nothing left to feel anxious about in the Election Court challenges, which become technical disputes without ramifications beyond the constituencies and candidates concerned, leaving the government to concentrate on tackling key domestic and bilateral issues.
“The PLP, on the other hand, has another — and again largely self-inflicted — wound to nurse ahead of its planned February convention.”
In a cable written in 2009, an embassy official said the previous two years had not been good for the PLP.
“The scandal-prone PLP unexpectedly lost the May 2007 elections to the Free National Movement (FNM) amid plausible charges of ineptitude and corruption,” the embassy official wrote.
“Unable to come to terms with defeat, the party pursued three separate Election Court challenges in a bid to reverse the poll results, losing two cases and abandoning the third in 2008.
“The first court decision went against the PLP in another way: the judgment stoked suspicions that the PLP sought to manipulate the election process to its own advantage through last-minute gerrymandering of constituency boundaries, in a bungled attempt that saw them lose the elections instead.
“Before the judicial nails were even hammered into the PLP strategy’s coffin, a youngish PLP Member of Parliament, Kenyatta Gibson, quit the party, declared his independence, and denounced long-serving PLP leader Perry Christie.”
The embassy official wrote that the acrimonious and very public exchange of insults in January 2008 upset the PLP leadership’s political calculus and strengthened the FNM’s effective parliamentary majority while PLP election challenges were still pending before the courts, rendering them essentially meaningless.
“Gibson’s vociferous criticism of Christie in the press distracted and embarrassed the opposition at a very sensitive juncture and re-opened post-election debates about the party leader’s responsibility for the defeat at the polls.”
The embassy official wrote that the series of post-election setbacks raised further doubts about Christie’s leadership capacity and judgment, whether in choosing his friends and candidates or charting a course for the party as a whole.
“Many observers inside and outside the PLP questioned his fitness for the top job,” the cable said.
“Yet months of post-election recriminations and debates — about the need for an honest analysis of the reasons for the PLP’s defeat or the prospects for a leadership succession — came to naught in February 2008, when the PLP held an anti-climactic party convention at which Christie’s leadership went unchallenged.
“Party elders apparently judged that it was the wrong time to launch a leadership debate. The convention was historic, nevertheless, for seeing the election of the first female chairman of the PLP, Glenys Hanna-Martin, daughter of the current Governor General and PLP stalwart, Arthur Dion Hanna.”