Convention postponement a bad move
Last Thursday the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) decided to postpone its November national convention. The party has not had one in seven years. Last year’s convention was postponed due to damage caused to the southern and central islands by Hurricane Joaquin. This year the PLP put off the gathering because of Hurricane Matthew. The party said it might have its convention in January or early February.
It is unfortunate that the PLP has again chosen delay. It is the oldest party in the country. It will be 64 years old next year. A mature political organization should have the capacity to handle its internal business and govern.
While the party said this delay results from devastation caused by Matthew, we suspect the event won’t happen this year for another reason.
The PLP candidate for Fort Charlotte, Alfred Sears, was going to challenge Prime Minister Perry Christie for the post of party leader. This would have been a long-shot try. Sears is not a member of the House of Assembly, and no PLP who has held the post of leader has ever been defeated in an internal contest.
Sears, nonetheless, traveled the country with his message that it is time for a change. He thinks the party must articulate a new vision focusing on land and education reform, among other priorities. Of late the PLP has been perceived as a patronage party, ensuring its own are taken care of first.
Christie has been PLP leader for nearly 20 years. He knows that he is no longer popular. Yet, he loves being prime minister. He loves power. He will never voluntarily leave the PLP’s leadership.
While Christie does not fear losing a race to Sears at this time, he does not want a convention where the focus is on when he will retire. Christie likes that PLPs think he will retire soon. He is 73. The longer he keeps them thinking this myth is true, the longer he can stay. He does not want them to know his true intention: He wants to stay leader for life.
In a full convention his supporters will rally to him, but they will want to know specifics of his exit plan. He does not want to be pinned down. He knows he cannot tell them the true desire of his heart. So, Christie, the brilliant political tactician, will have a brief, token convention next year weeks before the general election. At that time everyone in the party will agree that it is too close to the general election for challenges to party offices. The status quo will remain.
While Christie has cleverly muted the Sears challenge for now, he harms himself in front of the wider electorate. Bahamians see that he is becoming less democratic. He doesn’t want party elections where he will be challenged.
Sir Lynden Pindling corrupted the culture of the PLP. The mindset now is that leaders serve until they choose to leave. The Bahamian people had to send Sir Lynden home in 1992. They reinforced the message in 1997. The Bahamian people will have to send Christie home too. We think Bahamians are readying themselves for the task. They want to remove the burden of Christie from their backs once and for all.