An eternal rut
In March 2010, when we sat with then Opposition Leader Perry Christie to discuss his bid to return as prime minister of The Bahamas, Christie confirmed that while he planned to lead the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) into the 2012 general election, it was his intention to step aside before the end of another five-year term.
Asked specifically about this, Christie told The Nassau Guardian, “Prime ministers should not say that, people who want to be prime ministers should not put a lame duck provision in their leadership, but I think when one looks mathematically at politics and you look at the ages of people, you look at the work they are doing to bring people into the party, you’d be able to read the tea leaves and to know that my work is to strengthen the Progressive Liberal Party.”
Christie said in that interview more than six years ago, he was working “aggressively” to prepare the PLP for new, younger leadership. He explained that this was why he was involved in attracting new faces to the PLP.
Of course, as the election neared and the lust for power intensified, Christie had a change of heart. He committed to staying on a full term.
Nearing the end of this term, that lust remains disgracefully insatiable.
Christie’s commitment to paving the way for new, dynamic leadership was a farce in 2010, and it remains one now.
Alfred Sears, a member of Christie’s first Cabinet and the only person who has stated an intention to challenge him for leader, already had a seemingly slim chance of unseating Christie for the leadership position.
Now that the PLP has decided to postpone its national convention until next year, his chances have perhaps moved from slim to near non-existent.
If the party holds a convention in late January or in early February, as PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts has projected, stalwart councilors who might have been contemplating voting for Sears may think again.
It would be a bad move to make so close to polling day.
No doubt, Christie knows this.
On Thursday night, when the PLP’s National General Council met to decide on whether to put off the convention once again due to a hurricane — as was done after last year’s storm — Christie was not present.
Roberts informed the gathering that the prime minister was sick. He later told reporters Christie had a stomach flu.
Luckily for Christie, his illness was short lived.
The next morning, the prime minister attended a bar call at the Supreme Court, where he presented the petition of attorney Audrey Elizabeth Bullard-Bonamy.
Wearing the traditional robe and wig, the prime minister was all smiles.
We do not doubt that Christie, as he continues to state, is tremendously confident that he will crush Sears or any other challenger in a leadership race.
But we also do not doubt that it is Christie’s desire to lead his party into the next general election with his leadership having been unopposed.
It is obscene for men and women who claim to be the standard bearers of democratic principles to have ignored their party’s constitution which mandates an annual convention.
Incredibly, it has been seven years since the PLP has held a national convention.
The leadership and other party offices have remained unchallenged as a result.
Last week, Christie told us he had no thoughts on whether the convention ought to be put off as a result of ongoing hurricane relief efforts.
He said that was a decision for the National General Council to make. Christie’s illness meant that he was not there for the vote.
But we would imagine he had an influence on it.
Whenever the convention is held, assuming it is held, we cannot imagine what record Christie and the PLP will tout. But they are delusional enough to give themselves high marks.
Christie will no doubt spend these remaining months trying to get Baha Mar opened, but an opening prior to next May or June — even a phased one — appears less likely with each passing week.
The national debate on National Health Insurance — which Christie had said would start January 1, 2016 — has gone quiet.
We still do not know how much such a scheme would cost, how it would be structured and how it would be paid for.
Despite numerous promises of a workable mortgage relief plan, the government has still not delivered.
The economy, meanwhile, remains subdued, and prospects have been worsened by yet another hurricane.
Many Bahamians have long lost trust in Christie and the PLP, and for very good reason. They are an arrogant and unaccountable bunch.
There is no accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in value-added tax, but yet the national debt is piling on. Many see the more than $20 million spent on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival as a waste.
There have been two failed referenda, and the government has resisted, at every turn, demands that it treat the electorate with respect and not disdain.
We have yet to see the business plan from Bahamas Power and Light that precious tax dollars funded.
We have yet to see the purported deal signed more than two years ago to take back two percent of the shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company the Ingraham administration sold to Cable and Wireless Communications in 2011.
There has been no reporting on the so-called BTC Foundation.
We have yet to see a Freedom of Information Bill brought before Parliament. It is unacceptable and it is disgraceful that the term is nearing an end and the bill has not been given priority.
Yet Christie is determined to force himself on the electorate yet again. But there is nothing more he can give us.
He is lethargic and bereft of new ideas. He cannot take us any further. With Christie, we are stuck in an eternal rut. Another term of him might even take us backward.
With all of that said, many PLPs know that as unpalatable and unrefreshing as their leader is, as difficult a sell as he will be, he stands his best chance at reelection with Dr. Hubert Minnis as leader of the Free National Movement (FNM).
Minnis has been successful in fighting off threats to his leadership, but he has not been able to articulate a vision that is inspirational to undecided voters.
Voter frustration and disappointment are reflected in the slow pace of voter registration.
We reported last week that there are 79,000 fewer voters registered now than there were during the same period ahead of the 2012 general election.
This is an indictment on the main opposition party, we believe.
More than anything, it may be a reflection on the inability of the FNM to fire up the undecideds, and that is largely a function of leadership.
With most of the FNM’s candidates for the next election already announced, the needle has not moved much. There is no sense that there has been a cumulative effect on the electorate’s level of excitement.
With the dismal performance of Christie and the PLP over the last four and a half years, Bahamians should be registering in larger numbers.
Existing apathy toward the current players on the political scene was reflected as well in the recent Public Domain poll we reported on.
The PLP, the FNM and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) were all viewed as far from thrilling options.
So while we expect the numbers of registered voters to increase in the coming weeks, we look forward to seeing what the voter turnout will be come election day.
When the polls close, a winner must emerge.
But we are in a very sad place with the options being presented to the electorate: Christie, who has lost the trust of many who previously supported the PLP, and who is now proving to be a drain on national progress; Minnis, whose inept and feeble leadership threatens the FNM’s chances; and Branville McCartney, whose DNA continues its struggle for relevance, under seemingly shallow leadership and a largely unattractive team.
These are the times in which we find ourselves. It is easy to see why so many are finding it so hard to get excited over any of these prospects.