Wise leaders should name candidates quickly
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has used his pen and the constituency boundaries will be changed. If the current cut is the final cut, we will have three less seats in Parliament. This is a reduction to 38 seats – the constitutional minimum. We applaud the prime minister for this move for which we have advocated for some time.
Ingraham has not just cut a few Free National Movement (FNM) seats or a few Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) seats. He changed the constituency map.
What this means is that hard decisions will have to be made by the PLP, the FNM and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
Let’s review a few examples. Ingraham was not pleased when Ryan Pinder won the Elizabeth by-election in 2010 and that area has been altered under the proposal. Five polling divisions of Elizabeth are in the proposed constituency five; one is in constituency nine; five are in constituency 19; and one is in constituency 23.
Bamboo Town has been similarly changed in a major way, as has been St. Thomas More, Lucaya and Kennedy. It is now unclear where or if current Members of Parliament Neko Grant (FNM), Ryan Pinder (PLP), Branville McCartney and Kendal Wright (FNM) will run. There are quite a few others facing this same problem.
Smart political leaders would deliver all of the bad medicine at once. Many upset MPs will come complaining about what has been done – PLPs, FNMs and DNAs. It would make no sense to tell one MP he is not running today, another he is not running next week and yet another that he is not running a month from now.
Some of these MPs will create a fuss. They will complain in the press, threaten to run as independents or even threaten to support another party. Politically speaking, it would be wise to get all of this drama out of the way so that it dies off well in advance of the general election.
The wise leader will also have to be forceful. You cannot be all things to all people. There are only 38 seats. You can only have 38 candidates on your slate. Some hearts will be broken, and that’s fine. Those who lose nominations or are denied nominations are often left out for good reasons. They will survive.
This issue may be more of a problem for PLP leader Perry Christie than Ingraham. Ingraham is not one to fear telling others what he thinks. Christie does not like to offend. He also does not like to disappoint. He would want to give nominations to all the nice young people with potential in his party. This is not possible, however.
Christie must resist the urge to lead on potential candidates if he just can’t run them due to the changes Ingraham has made.
Ingraham has the right to set the boundaries as he sees fit, just as Christie had the right when he was prime minister. The PLP should not complain on this point. PLP prime ministers have cut the boundaries a lot more than FNM prime ministers since 1967; and both sides have retained the power to alter the boundaries.
We disagree with Fred Mitchell who argues that the seats should not have been reduced. MPs should help make laws, serve on parliamentary committees and bring forward for resolution major issues faced by constituents or constituencies. Each constituent does not need an MP. Each island does not need its own MP.
MPs are not personal valet services. When a constituent cannot pay his or her rent that is not a job for an MP to resolve. That is a family issue; that is an issue for churches and charities; that is an issue for the Department of Social Services.
Too many Bahamians perceive MPs as masters of the manor to petition for benevolence. Hence, the perception that there needs to be enough of them to hear personal problems. MPs should only address personal issues when gross unfairness is involved – or extraordinary tragedy – that cannot be solved through assistance by government agencies or charitable organs.