Making ready

Free National Movement MPs and certain presumptive candidates have received their marching orders to get visible in the various constituencies as their leader seemingly pivots from management of the COVID-19 pandemic to getting his party’s machinery ready for the next general election.

The party was out in full force in various New Providence communities on the weekend.

While it was not unusual for some MPs to canvass their constituencies on Saturdays prior to the pandemic, and for some to still have a presence even during COVID-19, it appeared from the images and videos that emerged on social media that their more recent efforts are shaped by a greater sense of purpose and preparation for what’s to come.

South Beach MP Jeff Lloyd, Mount Moriah MP Marvin Dames, Elizabeth MP Dr. Duane Sands and Marathon MP Romauld Ferreira were among those pictured doing the rounds with teams of constituency and campaign workers.

While engaged in a community initiative, Fox Hill MP Shonel Ferguson and her team wore pink T-shirts with the words “Fox Hill. It’s all about you” — a play on the FNM’s 2017 election theme, “It’s the people’s time”, and possibly an early indication of a slogan the party will adopt ahead of the next general election.

Campaign workers for Brian Brown, who is seeking the FNM’s nomination for Golden Isles, were shown in a video campaigning, getting into an exchange with a PLP supporter at her front door. At least one member of Brown’s team was not wearing a mask.

In some cases, there is no social distancing among campaign workers, and among campaign workers and the people they are pitching to.

In other signs that election season nears — if it in fact is not here already — members of the Constituencies Commission have been named — a constitutional and procedural necessity ahead of an election. The last Constituencies Commission report was tabled on February 8, 2017. The constitution calls for reports to be completed at five-year intervals.

Back in March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis publicly declared the “boundaries are not changing. You’ve got what you got”.

As the FNM makes ready and as some observers speculate about whether Minnis will call an early election, officials of the Ministry of National Security and the Parliamentary Registration Department, which was plagued by stunning inefficiencies in the lead up to the last election, are trying to figure out how to navigate voter registration in the midst of a pandemic.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, who has Cabinet responsibility for the department, said yesterday they are considering a permanent register and pointed out that had voter registration been on schedule, the process would have started in June.

Many observers believe, meanwhile, that the signs are there for the prime minister to call an early election.

The economic and fiscal picture is currently grim. The fiscal deficit at the end of 2019/2020 was estimated at $788.1 million; government officials believe unemployment could be as high as 40 percent and there is no level of security in place to rebuff the coronavirus.

Hurricane Dorian in 2019 is largely to blame for the current fiscal crisis, the Ministry of Finance recently stated in its latest fiscal snapshot. Bad management post the storm made a devastating situation worse.

There is no expectation that our economic fortunes will turn around prior to 2022. There is nothing that provides any indication that the eroded trust in the Free National Movement could be somehow restored by 2022.

Minnis no doubt understands that facing an opposition that’s ready to go would lessen his party’s chances of victory at the polls.

We would not be surprised, therefore, if he is plotting a path to pull the election trigger early, notwithstanding the fact that Manifesto pledges and Speech from the Throne declarations are largely unfulfilled. His administration has failed to deliver on promised electoral reforms, including term limits for prime minister, a recall system for MPs, an independent Constituencies Commission, campaign finance legislation, and other big ticket items.

As the FNM makes ready for whenever the vote is called, the Minnis administration must not take its eyes off the fact that we are still fully in the middle of a pandemic. The prime minister is still discouraging social interaction and gatherings even while members of his party are knocking on doors and engaging the public. 

While the FNM will blame unfulfilled promises on Dorian and the pandemic, convincing voters that the government performed acceptably will be a tremendously difficult task whether the prime minister takes us to the end of the term or decides to send us to the polls prior to 2022.

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