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Remembering a bold act by a PLP

It is just over two years since, in the run-up to the 2017 general election, Alfred Sears challenged Perry Christie for the post of Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader. Sears knew he could not win but wanted to oppose the most dysfunctional part of PLP culture: blind adherence to the leader.

Lynden Pindling, the long-time PLP “chief”, enshrined a cult of personality of “the leader” in the PLP. Pindling was Moses. Pindling was wise and all powerful. Pindling was the one the party could not do without.

Pindling made himself the hero character in the historic black story. He was “the emancipator”.

Christie inherited a party that conceived of its leader in those grandiose terms. Although he never accomplished anything that would warrant anyone thinking of him in historic terms, the followers of Pindling so deeply educated in his cult of personality transferred some of that zeal to the new person holding the post.

Christie failed spectacularly in his last term, from 2012 to 2017. The country wandered between recession and stagnation. Murders hit record highs. Empowered PLPs wasted taxpayer money in record fashion. Scandals were regular. There were high deficits despite higher taxation.

Another term of Christie would have been calamitous for the country.

Smart PLPs knew this. When we spoke with them privately they’d talk about Christie in the harshest terms. They thought he was incompetent. Yet in public, to the people, they’d call him a great leader and suggest he have five more years.

Their duplicity was stunning. To this day it is difficult to respect some opposition members who we know knew Christie was a threat to our commonwealth, yet they tried to convince Bahamians to reelect him.

Sears had courage. He thought Christie was a disaster. He stepped forward and challenged him.

Christie won, of course, by a large margin. On January 26, 2017, the PLP leader received 1,264 votes. Sears got 169 votes. Sears was heckled. Christie supporters shouted “one leader!” in delusional exuberance.

Christie, a few months later at the general election, led the PLP to a 20-point defeat, four seats, and he became the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat.

Sears was trying to warn his party. Yet, they were happy to giddily follow Christie to their political demise. Bahamians had developed contempt for Christie. It was palpable. Yet many of those, mesmerized by the PLP’s cult of the leader, could not see what was so obviously coming.

The PLP is revising its constitution. It should enshrine in there term limits for its leader. It would help the party move on from lost chiefs before it is too late. Thus far Pindling and Christie did the same thing: They wrecked the party at the end, deluded by ego. The people had to send them home in embarrassing fashion at general elections.

Sears was one of the few in the party who was brave enough to suggest a different path other than marching off the political cliff. It’s a shame more PLPs did not join him. He would have made a fine PLP leader then. And though time may have passed him by, he still would today.

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