An early election — is it the best time?

Dear Editor,

Please permit me to comment on recent news report concerning the possibility that the prime minister may call an early election with some suggesting that it may be held as early as August 2021.

From all indications given the amount of political maneuverings that have taken place within the government recently and with the governing party’s ratification of its final slate of candidates, it seems credible that an early election is at least being considered.

The current administration has until May of 2022 before its term comes to an end constitutionally, so there is no legal requirement for an election to be held before May of 2022.

Should there be an early election in August or anytime shortly thereafter, one would have to question the science of doing so when the country is in the midst of an alarmingly high rate of COVID hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths being recorded at a record-setting pace.

Coupled with a vaccine shortage and hesitant population and a treasury that is living on borrowed times, it would seem to be the height of irresponsibility by the prime minister and his government to subject this country to an unnecessary election, which will undoubtedly put a strain on an already strained treasury.

I appreciate that there are many persons who would welcome the opportunity to rid themselves of this administration, however it is only reasonable to question the wisdom of putting the country through the health risk and financial expense of an unnecessary election, not to mentioned the political wisdom of doing so on the government’s part.

Here is a prime minister who thought it necessary that the country should be under a state of emergency, but can find it conveniently safe enough to carve out a space for himself and his party to campaign to pursue their political ambitions.

He has the temerity to do so while the Bahamian people have been severely restricted in their civil liberties and could not fully pursue their ambitions and pastime due to the harsh emergency orders which were unnecessarily kept in place over the last 17 months.

Further, many Bahamians were also hauled before the courts and fined excessively for seeking to exercise the same freedoms and engage in the same activities the prime minister and his political colleagues are now preparing to engage in.

This is “rank hypocrisy” and it ought to be called out for what it is.

Yes, I do expect the state of emergency to be conveniently lifted, if only to improve the administration’s re-election bid.

However, it is also my belief that if the prime minister and his administration are re-elected, the state of emergency would be re-enacted and they will again seek to rule by emergency orders. I see no other reason why the prime minister would want a renewed mandate at this time.

It seems not to matter to the prime minister, who claims to be guided always by “saving lives”, that according to the governor general’s emergency proclamation, we are in the middle of a pandemic.

Further, there are the many economic and social ills that continue to torment this nation and which his administration ought to utilize the full 10 months remaining it its legislative term to address.

These, in many instances, are the same ills and problems that the present administration claimed to possess the competency and had made a promise to address when elected.

I remind the prime minister and the government that contrary to their assertions, we still have widespread and entrenched corruption in many areas of government, rampant crime, high unemployment and underemployment, inadequate health and public infrastructure, declining education outcomes, an obstructive and unfriendly business climate at many government agencies and structural economic and social inequalities, which have worsened in some cases under this administration.

There also remains untouched several pieces of legislation which he said he would enact should he be elected (fixed election date and term limit for prime minister).

By holding an election next month or anytime shortly thereafter, this administration would be potentially leaving valuable legislative opportunity on the table, which a suitably focused and well intentioned administration would utilize to fulfill its agenda and to address the many issues that torment us all.

To pass up this opportunity by going to an early election would suggest that the government had no sincere commitment or desire to have the promised legislation brought into force. They do not require a fresh mandate from the people.

Given the depressed state of affairs, it would be more prudent for this administration to devote its time and effort to addressing the many pressing needs and issues that continue to frustrate the forward progress of the Bahamian people.

And if it is really about saving lives, why under these grave circumstances would the prime minister take this time to hit the campaign trail and use scarce financial resources to conduct an election that is not constitutionally called for, especially at a time when the country cannot find funds to purchase much needed vaccines or to improve its medical capacity and infrastructure?

Should the prime minister in fact call an early election, I can only surmise that he has decided to put his political ambitions above the health and safety of the Bahamian people and, his constant chant about “saving lives” was nothing more than self-serving fear mongering.

However, notwithstanding my obvious curiosity and questions, should an early election be held, I like many others would certainly take the opportunity to vote in a manner consistent with what is in the best interest of a free and democratic Bahamas.

Claude B. Hanna 

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