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Voting time nears

The parties are almost ready, and most of the country is too, for the next general election.  Though the prime minister has until May to call the vote, it is expected that he will do so before then.  Based on the work that has already been done, it would be reasonable to assume that an election will be held sometime between February and March.  If not, it would be soon after.  If you didn’t already know, we are now in election season.

Based on the registration numbers thus far, more Bahamians will be eligible to vote in 2012 than the 150,000 on the voting list in 2007.  Included in that eligible voter number are the bases of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM).  For whatever reasons, these people will vote for the party they are aligned to regardless of who it selects as candidates and regardless of who leads it.

The swing voters, who change their minds from time to time, will largely determine the next government.

For the swing voters who are undecided or confused, we offer a few simple suggestions to help in your evaluation process.

It would be wise to initially define what you think are the biggest problems facing the country.  Once this is done, examine the records of the parties on those issues.  The leaders of the PLP and the FNM have been around a long time.  They have clear track records on issues such as job creation and crime management.  It does not take much thinking or research to evaluate the performance of each of the main parties, and their leaders, on issues of national concern.

What must then be analyzed is leadership itself.  In the Westminster system in developing countries, significant power is concentrated in the hands of prime ministers.  The man you elect would need to be competent, fair, energetic and enough of a visionary to help lift the country from its current malaise.

Does the leader inspire you?  Do you think he cares about the country, or does he just want to be prime minister?  Will he listen to the people once he is elected?  Is the team around him competent?  These are just some of the questions that should be considered.

Now, we mentioned the PLP and FNM.  There is also a ‘third party’ in the race – that is, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).  Its leader is a one-term member of Parliament.  What must be considered here is whether he and the members of his party are ready to govern.

We have discussed the macro-level of voting thus far, but another approach can be taken.  There will be 38 constituency races.  While many Bahamians vote for party or leader, it is just as reasonable to vote for the person you think best to represent you, your community and your interests.

Voting for party, leader or candidate is fine once the decision is a considered one.  Voters should not just place their Xs next to candidates from particular parties because of, for example, family history.

To those who are disheartened by the choices before us this electoral cycle, do not become apathetic.  Look closely before you decide not to vote.  If none of the main players interest you, consider the lesser ones.  Not voting should always be a last option.

What all Bahamians must remember is anything is possible at election time if the people are interested and open to making the change they desire.  We vote in governments.  We vote them out.  No party or leader is guaranteed anything on election day.  We must work hard during these upcoming weeks to ensure that the best government for The Bahamas is chosen.  And when this is done, we must work just as hard to ensure that the people who make up that government do what they were elected to do.

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