Parliamentary representation — reality or a myth?
We have what is called a parliamentary form of governance.
On a regular basis, Bahamians go to the electoral polls and elect candidates who are offered by different political parties.
This system works like clockwork even if the desired results are impossible to achieve.
The party that secures the greatest number of seats or constituency is invited by the governor general to form the government of the day.
While this looks good on paper and in theory, real parliamentary democracy does not, unfortunately, exist in its purest sense here in our wonderful nation.
Here is why.
The majority of individuals who offer for the House of Assembly belong either to one of the established political parties such as the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) or the Free National Movement (FNM) or they run as independents.
Of course, we have the fringe groups such as the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) or some other fly-by-night name. Once the relevant party gets a majority of constituencies, the leader becomes prime minister.
He then appoints a Cabinet comprised of ministers and ministers of state along with parliamentary secretaries. The leader then emerges as a parliamentary/democratic “dictator” in that members of his caucus must toe the official party line or risk being ejected from the party.
Indeed, ordinary house members are relegated to supporting roles with no real power to influence anything.
A parliamentary representative is supposed to actually represent the interests of the constituents; usher in economic opportunities for the residents in that area; ensure that the environment is stable and properly managed; and, more importantly, be the parliamentary voice of constituents —no more, no less.
Eighty-five percent of the current MPs (members of Parliament) do not appear to understand this and they follow the dictates of the leader with a view to protecting their standing within the party and ensuring that they are renominated and, apparently, “to hell with the constituents”.
This is the core reason why some 46 years after our so-called Independence Order, 1973, we have a majority of the constituencies here on New Providence which are considered and labeled the inner city or, to put it bluntly, ghettos.
In these areas we will find the bulk of residents and potential voters.
Without attempting to come across as unkind, allow me to suggest that the majority of these fellow Bahamians are not as formally educated as some others and they hold down minimum wage type jobs, if they do, in fact, have jobs. In most cases, they were born in the ghetto and, unless the Lord returns now, they will die in the same locality.
Not a single political administration to date has focused on the economic empowerment of the abject masses.
The PLP is known as being the party of the “small man and woman” while the governing FNM is regarded as the party of the entrenched classes, rightly or wrongly.
The PLP, of course, is responsible for the development and growth of the middle classes. The United Bahamian Party (UBP), from whose bowels the Free National Movement (FNM) sprung, is generally regarded as the foundation of the entrenched classes and the so-called Bay Street Boys. Most of the black Bahamian millionaires were once affiliated with the white oligarch. It is as simple as that.
Parliamentarians ordinarily do not appear to care about the economic advancement of the unwashed masses, inclusive of Family Islanders.
Residents and constituents here on New Providence have been reduced to literal political beggars.
The civil service is overstaffed mainly due to political patronage.
The stark reality is that so-called representatives represent themselves and the party. Constituents only appear to count or matter during elections.
Representation is a myth, in my considered opinion.
— Ortland Bodie Jr.