Who will win the next general elections?
“There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip’. Erasmus
I am frequently asked by individuals of different political persuasions and backgrounds, “who do you think will win the general elections and form the next government of The Bahamas?” Although we are a mere few months from the next general elections, that is a very difficult question to answer. Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This… dispassionately, how do the contenders for the next government shape up?
To an objective observer, the Free National Movement has done some positive and interesting things with the country in the face of the global economic cataclysm. The island of New Providence alone will be the beneficiary of some monumental infrastructural improvements, as soon as the irritating and seemingly eternal road works are finished. The new straw market will soon open, the national stadium is a wonderful national monument which will make us all proud, the new LPIA has vastly improved our national gateway and extensive work has commenced to upgrade the Princess Margaret Hospital.
From what we have heard, North Abaco has also been upgraded in a very big way. Public corporations, either fully privatized or with discussions begun to bring them to that stage, have promised better and more efficient service than we are used to. The FNM government is now assisting many thousands with the purchase of prescription drugs, and many millions have been spent on Bahamians who have lost their jobs. However, what is the actual cost of these seemingly positive initiatives, both to us today and to future Bahamians?
That price is manifested by the national debt and the deficit that have reached historic highs. Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded our sovereign debt; crime and the fear of crime have spiraled out of control, and unemployment rates and the cost of living seem to be uncontrollable and unmanageable. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for average Bahamians to make ends meet.
Therefore, the nation’s voters must not be dazzled with the external benefits we see around us without taking into consideration the true costs. And the nation’s voters must also be fully aware that, by voting the FNM back into government, they are approving what has been done, and the way it has been done, for the past four-and-a-half years and giving permission for those methods to continue for another five years.
The Progressive Liberal Party, on the other hand, to that same observer, may seem to be a party that is committed to recycling and living on past glories or near-glories. While the “anchor project” initiative that was decimated by the FNM upon their coming to power in 2007 was a plan that seemed to hold great promise for our Family Islands, it is, today, not as feasible as it was then, given the great changes in the price of fuel and the other commodities linked to it. The other very promising project that the PLP can claim and that the FNM dismantled, the Urban Renewal project, while being resurrected in a supposedly reengineered reincarnation, is still not being expressed well to the general public.
In fact, it seems that the PLP is concentrating a lot of its communications on what’s wrong with the FNM’s governance instead of laying out its plans for the future of The Bahamas. It is this constant bickering that is driving Bahamians away from both of these parties. While the average family is suffering and trying to make do with what they have, they want to hear how a political party is planning to make it better, not how they would have made it better if they had stayed in power or how bad it is now, which I venture to say the voters know far better than most of the politicians.
To its credit, the PLP is fielding some exciting new candidates who have been conveying some new ideas and some new attitudes, but are they – should the PLP win the government – really going to be able to infuse this party with their youthful vigor and enthusiasm, which, by all accounts, is what the electorate is searching for?
That brings us to the Democratic National Alliance – a party with new energy, enthusiasm and excitement that has caught the imagination of the disaffected voter. Their naiveté and lack of any negative baggage can be very attractive to some and very off-putting to others. They are a group of Bahamians who, for the most part, are business people, focused on running the country in a business-like fashion, bringing new ideas and approaches to the old, staid halls of government. It is their lack of experience with governance that is, depending on your point of view, their biggest drawback and their biggest advantage.
The other parties
In a word, the other political parties that are seeking the support of the Bahamian voter are inconsequential and irrelevant. To that same observer, they seem to have great difficulty getting out of the starting blocks, and it is quite unlikely that any of their candidates will gain sufficient votes to have their deposits refunded.
So here are the choices, in a nutshell:
Five more years with the FNM, five more years of an approach to borrowing that borders on dangerous, but with some first world infrastructure on which to drive our cars for which many can hardly afford to make either their monthly bank payments or buy the gas to fuel them, and five more years of being ignored as we watch foreign interests once more occupy our land, our corporations and our daily lives.
Five years with the PLP, a party where the power and dynamism of its youth is at odds with and under the guidance of much older, war-weary politicians who seem to be fearful of taking tough, unpopular stands in the short term to create beneficial long-term results. Will the bright ideas of these young politicians be able to emerge and take center stage or will they be marginalized as their elders seek yet one more moment in the sun?
Five years with the DNA, a party full of energy and resolve, but short on the expertise as to how to bring their ideas to fruition in an archaic system. Are we willing to overlook their certain mistakes and missteps along the way in order to avail the nation of their innovations? Do we have time to embark on what would be an experiment in governance?
It therefore appears that the next general elections are up for grabs. Success will depend on the various parties’ abilities to articulate a vision for the country that will resonate with the average voter. Who will win is simply too close to call and fraught with many complexities and dynamics, many of which have yet to unfold. One thing is certain though: it will be an historic, interesting time in the political life of The Bahamas.
Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to [email protected]