No third party coming to the rescue
We are 22 years since the Free National Movement (FNM) won re-election. That FNM took The Bahamas from the stagnation of the end of the Pindling years to a period of reform, growth and renewal.
The party’s success led it to be rewarded with a super-majority of 34 seats to the six the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won in the House of Assembly.
Ever since, for four straight elections, the governing party has lost. The voters elected Sir Lynden Pindling and his party for 25 straight years and, come the next election, it would be 25 straight years of voting out the incumbent.
It’s unclear why we have shifted so dramatically in nature. We loved one leader and left him there for more than a generation. Now we don’t like anyone and come to the polls each election enraged and ready to send the incumbent home.
This FNM has its challenges with a fickle electorate. The economy is growing. Murders are down dramatically. The public finances have stabilized. Yet the people don’t seem happy.
The anger they felt toward the PLP election day did not subside. So, as the FNM, the new governing party, made its inevitable mistakes (Oban) or advanced controversial policy (the value-added tax increase) it faced the anger that was once directed at its opponent.
Our people do not seem able to control the impulse to anger and party expulsion. But some are seeing the futility in it. If the PLP was the party on May 10, 2017 that was taking taxpayer money, drifted from scandal to scandal, was the worst government since majority rule, then what has changed so quickly? How would voting the FNM out and replacing it with the same old PLP help advance the country?
These people hope for a third party – some other group that could govern well and break the cycle of back and forth between the FNM and PLP. The problem here is despite the grumbling and disquiet, Bahamians won’t support a third party. Dr. Bernard Nottage tried in 2002 and got a negligible percentage of the vote. Branville McCartney tried in 2012 and 2017. He and his Democratic National Alliance (DNA) couldn’t get out of the single digits.
Our political system is well evolved to contests between two parties. No third party will come and change that. The two main parties have infrastructure, core support, history and experience.
For our people there is a simple choice when we vote again: It’s the PLP you know so well versus the FNM you know so well.
What we must learn as we mature politically as a young, independent state is how to vote positively and not just out of rage. Pick the party you think best to govern. Don’t just come to the polls full of grievance with the desire to exact revenge and “vote them out”.
Sometimes in elections there is no A-grade option. You have to choose between a C-minus grade party and one worthy of an F.
Those who have a burning desire for change should get involved with the two main parties and try to affect that change from within. That’s our system. That’s how most evolved democracies are: two parties or two coalitions that vie for power.
Third party thinking here is a waste of time. The people don’t want it despite their grumbling about the state of governance in the country. We choose between the two that we have.