The question of voter apathy has exercised the minds of numerous Bahamians in recent times. Even the American Embassy has intruded itself into the equation (to the annoyance of many Bahamians, myself included). There are many things which the Americans can teach Bahamians. How to participate in the electoral process of this country is not one of them. In this regard, Americans need to be schooled by Bahamians. Thus, the American Embassy was ill advised to meddle in our political domestic affair, and it is my hope that they have been advised by the appropriate government official, in this regard.
The opinion of the parliamentary commissioner, of “voter apathy”, is accurate and beyond dispute. What may be in dispute, however, are the reasons for such apathy. I venture a few reasons.
1. Bahamians generally are disillusioned with all the traditional political parties.
2. Bahamians want a change of government, but feel a sense of frustration because the alternative appears to be much of the same. For example, some individuals say the PLP and the FNM are two different sides of the same coin.
3. The current government is mainly and directly to be blamed for the “apathy”.
a) It is the accepted belief that the government uses early voter registration as a pretext to gerrymander the electoral boundaries to its advantage.
b) The Bahamian people are plain tired of politicians telling them what to do, when to do, and how to do. Thus, Bahamians have decided to register when they are “good and ready”, and not when the politicians say they must.
c) Politicians don’t listen to the people any more, so the people have decided that they will not listen to the politicians any more. We still have vivid memory of the referendum, and the defiant rejection of the voice of the people.
d) This government drags its feet on everything that is important to Bahamians, but will rush bills and matters that are of concern to foreign entities.
e) Bahamians want to know before they register which constituency they will be expected to vote in; but government is dragging its feet on the report of the boundaries commission because it believes it is to its advantage.
f) Americans know four years out when the next election will be. In The Bahamas the old and “tired” approach of denying the electorate this vital information until the last possible moment will only work against the government. Given the manner in which the PLP has operated, we may not have an election until…
4. Bahamians have been desperately searching for a reason to register to vote. It is my belief that we have finally found a viable reason to register. The fractured FNM and the defunct PLP have given hope that there can at last be a new beginning. Like the Bible says, “new wine, in new wineskins”. Hopefully the boundaries commission will be allowed to report soon and we will see Bahamians flocking to register in their thousands because they can see clearly now that the devastating storm is almost over, and a brand new day is dawning.
– Pastor Jeremiah Duncombe, leader of The Gatekeepers