A snap election this year wouldn’t be the first in Bahamian history

Dear Editor,

I am sensing that many Bahamians are excited about the prospects of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis calling a snap election this year, as if a change in government would cause this COVID-19 nightmare to disappear.

Bahamians will be in for a rude awakening on the morning after election night. Bahamians will be made to understand just how big a role external factors have on this nation’s economy.

Political sages are basing their predictions of an early election on the fact that Minnis seems to be in full campaign mode, traveling throughout the Family Islands and also due to the Free National Movement’s (FNM) recent ratification of nearly 20 candidates.

In a recent letter to the editor in The Nassau Guardian, letter writer Andrew Allen said something to the effect that a snap election would be the first in Bahamian history.

If I am interpreting Allen correctly, he is dead wrong. Bahamians have been to the polls before in a snap election.

The year was 1968 — approximately 14 months after the January 10, 1967 general election that ushered in majority rule.

In the election of 1967, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won 18 seats and 18,462 or 42.8 percent of the votes, while the United Bahamian Party (UBP) got 18 seats and 19,408 or 45 percent of the votes.

Under the Labour Party banner, Sir Randol Fawkes won St. Barnabas, while the independent candidate Sir Alvin Braynen won one of the seats in the Harbour Island constituency. Norman Solomon of the UBP won the other one.

Uriah McPhee won Shirlea for the PLP. Unfortunately for the PLP, McPhee’s untimely death on February 17,1968 left a vacant seat in Shirlea.

With a razor slim majority in Parliament, owing to the PLP’s shaky coalition with Sir Randol’s Labour Party and the independent MP Sir Alvin, who was made House speaker, Sir Lynden Pindling called a snap election for April 10, 1968, rather than calling for a by-election in Shirlea.

Pindling recognized that the UBP was still a force to reckon with in The Bahamas. Six years prior to 1968, the only PLPs elected to Parliament in the 1962 general election were Pindling, Sir Orville Turnquest, S.S. Bethel, Sir Milo Butler, Paul Adderley, A.D. Hanna, John Stevenson and Clarence Bain – eight in total. The UBP won 18 seats, while independent candidates won six and the Labour Party won one. Parliament had 33 seats.

A UBP by-election win in 1968 would’ve returned the White oligarchs to power. Pindling’s snap election gamble paid off. The PLP won 29 of the 38 seats in the House of Assembly, gaining 29,156 or 66.51 percent of the votes. The UBP won only seven seats. In the event Minnis calls for a snap election, he wouldn’t be breaking new ground. It is imperative that Bahamians read their history before putting pen to paper.

Kevin Evans

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