A third party challenge
Soon after the resignation of Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney from the Free National Movement (FNM) earlier this year, the national airwaves were dominated by talk of the formation of a third political party to challenge the FNM and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
Since then McCartney has formed the DNA (Democratic National Alliance), which he refers to as an ‘alternative’ party, not a third party — perhaps because of the fate of past third parties in this country.
The last major politician to try the third party route was former PLP deputy leader Dr. Bernard Nottage in 2002 when his Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR) took on the two major parties. Dr. Nottage’s party failed and he lost his seat. CDR candidates were crushed as non-contenders at the polls.
At the time Bahamians were upset with the FNM, which was fractured and falling apart. They chose to go with a Perry Christie. He was a part of a major political force and he was also a new face to leadership. Christie ran as a”new PLP”, seeking to break with the somewhat tarnished legacy of the defeated old PLP.
At that 2002 election there was something new that was still a part of the mainstream for Bahamians to choose. Dr. Nottage could not compete with that.
Almost ten years later, a young, attractive and charismatic politician (McCartney) is trying the same thing — no matter how he tries to dress it up. He is not as politically accomplished as Dr. Nottage was at the time he led the CDR to defeat. However, McCartney may have an advantage.
At this general election, neither political party has anything new to offer at the leadership level. FNM leader Hubert Ingraham and PLP leader Perry Christie both entered the House of Assembly in 1977. Both men are known. Neither man can claim to be new. Neither man can suggest he can offer something he has not already offered during his long political career.
At this election it could be argued that a message could be presented, stating that Ingraham and Christie, and the FNM and the PLP, are the same thing and a new direction is needed for the country. In recent years there have been annual murder records; the down economy has persisted; and the Bahamian education system is doing poorly.
Though this environment exists, it is unclear if Bahamians will break with the PLP/FNM duopoly.
The key for any third party movement would be to determine if dissatisfaction with the parties could be harnessed into votes. If that dissatisfaction cannot be, starting a third party will only waste money.
Ultimately, Bahamians will have to decide if they will accept others at the national table of decision making or if they think only card carrying PLPs or FNMs should lead The Bahamas.
Before any third party enters the election arena it should understand what is at stake. If defeated badly at the general election, the force will look like a joke never to be considered again.
McCartney has taken the third party course, and could be risking his political career. His force needs to make some sort of impact.