Op-Ed

A new day has dawned, pt. 2 

As we observed last week, the general election held on Thursday, September 16, 2021 is now one for the history books. The Bahamian people spoke loudly and clearly, saying that they had had enough of the disastrous government led by former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for the last four years, four months, and five days.

The election’s official results now confirm that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won 32 seats and the Free National Movement (FNM) won seven seats.

In part one of this series, we observed that former Prime Minister Minnis, in only four years, had lost the confidence of the Bahamian people.

We noted that Minnis was too dismissive of accepted political norms and practices, including unprecedented political prosecutions that his government initiated against three former political adversaries.

Two of those prosecutions completely failed, thanks to an incompetent attorney general.

The trouncing of the government also happened because the former prime minister ignored the normal practices regarding our general elections, including his refusal to allow the Constituencies Commission to report to Parliament.

Despite his persistent pledges to provide greater accountability and transparency in governance, he and his Cabinet colleagues miserably and unabashedly betrayed that promise.

Perhaps his most egregious failings included the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing an election eight months ahead of schedule, which blatantly betrayed his promise to set a fixed election date, and the flagrant attempts to suppress voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The ultimate straw that severed the electorate’s faith was the nasty, scurrilous, unsupported claims against the leader of the official opposition, accompanied by one of the most poorly executed general election campaigns in Bahamian history.

This week, we will continue to consider this — as a consequence of the 2021 general election, can the Bahamian people anticipate that a new day has dawned?

Official election results

The parliamentary commissioner has released the official results of the election. The following election statistics are attributed to Mr. Alexander Hanna’s synopsis of the election results:

There were 192,108 registered voters in 2021 compared to 181,813 in 2017.

This represented an increase of 10,295 voters from 2017 to 2021.

We will never really know how many more citizens would have registered in 2021, if the government’s attempts at voter suppression had not occurred.

In 2021, of the 192,108 registered voters, 126,740 voted, representing an all-time low in voter participation of 66 percent.

In 2017, there were 160,424 votes cast, representing 88 percent of the registered voters.

Approximately 66,407 voters supported the PLP in 2021, compared to 59,289 in 2017 —  a gain of roughly 7,100 more voters who supported the PLP this time.

Approximately 46,030 voters supported the FNM in 2021, compared to 91,413 in 2017, for a staggering loss of approximately 45,400 fewer voters supporting the FNM this time.

This was a loss of nearly half of those who voted for them in 2017.

The PLP won 52 percent of the votes cast, while the FNM won 36 percent.

Winners and losers

The election proved once again that we are a two-party system and that third parties remain relatively irrelevant.

The longest-serving third party, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), came in fourth in total votes – 1,742 in 2021 versus 7,577 in 2017. The DNA was the biggest loser in the recent election, having lost more than 5,800 voters from just four years earlier.

On the other hand, the biggest winner among the non-legacy political parties was the nascent Coalition of Independents (COI), which entered the electoral race for the first time, garnering approximately 9,735 votes – nearly six times more than the DNA.

Given its deplorable electoral performance, the DNA has become irrelevant to the local political landscape.

If the DNA has any political future in this country, in the absence of radical transformation and reorganization and rebranding, it should seriously consider taking a page from the now-defunct United Bahamian Party, which effectively merged into the fledgling FNM. The DNA should seriously consider merging with the COI or disbanding.

The other five, mostly irrelevant political parties that participated in the election, should consider a similar fate.

Banal attempts at spin

Last week, a prominent weekly columnist attempted to spin the election results by trying to diminish the impact of the PLP’s success at the polls.

He wrote: “Based on preliminary data, the PLP secured only 34 percent of registered voters. They are the government with only one third of registered Bahamians. That figure lowers when it is considered that many people [did] not register.”

While he is factually correct, his assertion is also a disingenuous endeavor to diminish the PLP’s victory. If he is going to be intellectually honest, that columnist should have also indicated that the FNM secured only 24 percent of registered voters.

He should also ask: why did so many people fail to register? Was it because his political benefactor sought to suppress prospective voters from registering?

That same columnist should be reminded of how unapologetically critical he was of his political master before the 2017 election.

Back then, his current obsequious obeisance did not color his credibility.

After the 2017 election, however, he became as meek as a lamb to that very same prime minister of whom he had been so critical.

That same columnist should honestly admit that, if his political master adhered to his promise to establish a set election day and if his leader did not call an early election at the height of the pandemic spike in August, more people would have registered and many more would have voted.

However, notwithstanding which percentage one uses, the PLP still got more of the vote, which is what an election is all about. One could even potentially predict those same percentages would hold, giving the PLP the majority had there been an increased number of voters.

Therefore, the low registration and greatly diminished election turnout rest squarely at the feet of his political boss.

And now the discredited prime minister has the nerve to suggest that he and his party will have to analyze why the people voted him and most of his arrogant team from office.

Perhaps that same columnist, who repeatedly and caustically characterized the PLP as a corrupt party, should honestly admit that the FNM’s loss resulted from disgraceful unanswered questions surrounding the award of Water & Sewerage Corporation (WSC) contracts and the refusal of the then-WSC executive chairman or the prime minister to adequately address the issue.

Perhaps that same columnist should muster the courage to inform the defrocked prime minister that Bahamians grew weary of the latter’s vile, vicious, venomous verbal attacks against the PLP — in and out of Parliament — while hypocritically refusing to be accountable and transparent to the Bahamian electorate.

Perhaps that same columnist would advise the disgraced prime minister that he lost his job because the Bahamian electorate saw the latter’s slanderous smear schemes as nothing more than an attempted power grab.

Perhaps that same columnist would honestly enlighten the prime minister that the Bahamian electorate voted for “A New Day” because they realized they could not trust Dr. Minnis with their future for another five years.

Early decisions by the new day prime minister

So far, the new prime minister has received high marks for his early decisions. He has extended the curfew hours, which were not equally applied to all businesses.

He has terminated the health visa for inter-island travel and altered other travel guidelines. And much more will be done to quickly arrest the decay and stagnation that has seeped into our national fabric.

True to form, the opposition quickly criticized the prime minister’s Cabinet picks. Right-thinking Bahamians realize that we are living in unprecedented times with unparalleled challenges. We urgently need additional personnel to address and reverse them.

While there may be some cause for concern at the size of the Cabinet, it is still early for this new administration. The new government should be given a chance to employ our best and brightest minds to tackle the complex crises that confront us. It is essential to give the new government a chance to execute the electorate’s mandate.

There is another important consideration regarding the new Cabinet.

The prime minister recognizes the urgent need to ensure that adequate plans are implemented to secure the succession for a future cadre of parliamentarians with experience.

The first Cabinet picks were essentially old guard, aging parliamentarians, many of whom will probably leave the political scene at the end of this term.

Therefore, it is essential to replace them with persons who will be prepared to face the complex future that will most certainly lie ahead. These newcomers must quickly perform in the best interests of all Bahamians.

If Cabinet ministers do not perform as expected, the prime minister has the discretion to remove or replace them. I am confident that he will do what is required.

The success of Cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries rests squarely with each of them. The success of the recovery of our nation rests squarely with this entire government.

Conclusion

The people have spoken, and the government has been formed.

It now remains for those appointed to conduct themselves honorably, constantly aware that the world is watching.

Their success will depend upon whether they listen to the people who have entrusted them with their future and whether they learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.

They must relentlessly resist the temptation to succumb to arrogance, entitlement, and omniscience that have abbreviated or destroyed so many political careers.

If they do so, with a full and unstinting commitment to their oath of office and with humility and dedication to the well-being of those whom they represent, Bahamians can be assured that their vote has indeed ushered in a new day.

 • 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 pgalanis@gmail.com.

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