Consider This | A matter of credibility
“Propaganda, to be effective, must be believed. To be believed, it must be credible.” – Hubert H. Humphrey
Next month will mark the second anniversary of the Minnis-led Free National Movement (FNM) administration, which was elected in May 2017. His government has enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon period, probably because of the disastrously deplorable performance in office of its predecessors.
The Christie-led Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration was catastrophic. Persons, including the most die-hard PLP’s, who cannot bring themselves to countenance that reality are as delusional as was their leader and last Prime Minister. One needs only review the results of the last election for proof of this: the FNM – 35 seats, the PLP – 4 seats.
If a scintilla of doubt persists regarding the PLP’s performance the last time out, simply look no further than the election results. Never in the history of the modern Bahamas has a prime minister lost his seat. You get the point: the Bahamian people were so disillusioned with the PLP that they wanted not only to vote the party out, they also wanted to see the back of the person who led the party.
As we approach the FNM’s second anniversary of governance, the honeymoon is over. Many Bahamians have preliminarily graded this administration with a degree of skepticism. They now discern that all is not well. There have been several mistakes and missteps that expose the administration’s inexperience in governance, its rush to judgment and its failure to widely consult on issues of national importance with key stakeholders who were most affected by those policy decisions. There are some who suggest that the current administration could suffer the same eventuality of the last twenty years, where governments have been elected for only a single term.
In light of these developments, we would like to Consider this…what must the PLP do to convince the Bahamian people that it has learned from its last dispensation, and is it now cultivating sufficient credibility to persuade the electorate that the party should be returned to office whenever the next general elections are called?
A matter of credibility
Credibility is defined as the quality of being believable or worthy of trust. Reduced to its essence, credibility involves the degree to which a person or an organization imbues characteristics of trustworthiness, reliability, integrity and sincerity.
When all is said and done, the most important question is whether the PLP has enhanced its credibility since the last election. The PLP has made remarkable internal progress in the last two years. The party has amended its Constitution to broaden its fundamental democratic tenets by shifting its focus from a maximum leader to the primary importance of an effective legislative team.
The party has also regularly staged seminars for persons interested in seeking a nomination to teach them about the party’s history, its antecedents, its core values, and so they will better understand how government functions.
Hardly a week passes where party supporters and interested persons are not invited to public meetings to address important issues of the day. While these are all important initiatives, are they enough to enhance the PLP’s credibility? It is a positive beginning.
One of the most important indicators of whether the PLP is seriously committed to enhancing its credibility will be manifested in the selection of competent candidates for the next general elections.
The party must honestly assess which, if any, of the former MPs should be given a nomination in the next election. Very few of the former MPs who lost their seats in the last election deserve the party’s consideration for another chance to run. If they are interested, serious consideration should be given to Michael Halkitis and Khaalis Rolle and Drs. Michael Darville and Kendal Major. It would be a monumental mistake to run those other MPs who neither performed well, nor enhanced the party’s credibility the last time. Jerome Fitzgerald has correctly decided not to offer and many of his former colleagues should follow suit. If they fail to do so, it remains for others to dissuade them.
The party leader and the candidates committee must take the courageous, and in some instances painful, decision to advise some of those who want to run that they will not be considered. The party can begin this process by discouraging such persons from being featured speakers at any of its public meetings. Not doing so, and doing so firmly, might give those former MPs the false expectation that they will be candidates.
One of the most instructive lessons of the last administration is that too many elected MPs were disconnected from the electorate. They lost touch with their constituents, which largely contributed to their defeat. To overcome this, PLP candidates should be identified as soon as possible and should intimately connect with their prospective constituents early, long before the campaign begins.
This will send a positive message to the electorate that the PLP is on the mend and that it has the intestinal fortitude to take the necessary actions to enhance its credibility.
As the Opposition begins its third year, it will become increasingly important for the PLP to begin the process of formulating its platform. The platform should contain workable ideas that address the important challenges that confront us in the years ahead.
The most effective method of formulating a practical platform will include a “listening tour” by the party’s leadership to the Family Islands to understand the issues that are important to the residents of those islands and to formulate workable approaches to addressing them. This exercise is fundamental to representative governance and should not be underestimated.
The age-old adage that “honesty is the best policy” still obtains. In the run-up to the election campaign, there is an irresistible propensity to overpromise, which frequently leads to under-performing, and eventually to the disillusionment of the voters.
Honesty in public life is fundamental to building credibility.
The greatest enemy to effective organization is the indiscipline of its members. Therefore, the PLP must strenuously safeguard and definitively impose a degree of discipline among its members which is uncompromisingly non-negotiable. It cannot afford to allow personalities to usurp the party’s message with impunity. Indiscipline cannot and must not be tolerated.
Accordingly, the party leader must rein in some members of its leadership from issuing public statements on behalf of the party without those statements first being thoroughly vetted and approved before they are issued. All public pronouncements must be seen to be strategic and must always be congruent with the party’s core values. Any and all party statements must be viewed from a perspective of whether the party will take the same position when it becomes the government. The PLP is not well served by allowing persons, even those in leadership, to preempt positions that are not agreed by consensus.
It would be helpful for the PLP to remember the observation of Cyril Ramaphosa, the current president of South Africa: “We are determined to rebuild the confidence of our people in public institutions and restore the credibility of those elected to serve them.”
If the PLP truly wants to regain the confidence of the Bahamian electorate, it must fully appreciate that credibility takes a long time to cultivate and a very short time to obliterate. The PLP must always be mindful that people are watching very closely and will immediately notice any deviation, no matter how minor, from its stated goals of rebuilding the party’s credibility. By focusing on the essential elements that build credibility, namely trustworthiness, reliability, integrity, sincerity and discipline, it will once again inspire the Bahamian electorate that it is worthy of its confidence.
By doing so, the PLP will provide assurances that, once it is in government, it will act in the best interests of all Bahamians, which will ultimately result in a government that is designed to foster the common good and build the progressive society this nation needs in order to create a secure and strong future.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., chartered accountants, forensic & litigation support services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.