No one can dispute that Maurice Tynes is an exemplary public servant. The now retired chief parliamentary clerk of the House of Assembly is a stickler for rules and for convention.
Unfortunately, his recent musing about whether the prime minister will “follow a 2020 Caribbean trend” and call a snap election here lacked any semblance of context.
Tynes saw impetuousness in what were essentially deft moves executed for political expediency by the prime ministers of St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and now Bermuda to call elections in the middle of a pandemic.
The implication from Tynes was that Prime Minister Minnis would want to capitalize on this winning streak by incumbents and call a snap election here.
Leaving aside Bermuda which has a unique set of extenuating circumstances, the other three prime ministers were reaching the end of their mandate in mere months as opposed to Dr. Minnis, whose constitutional term does not end until 2022.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, their election was called for June 5. Their Parliament’s term was to expire two months later in August 2020.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the prime minister called elections for August 10 while facing a hard deadline of September 7, 2020 for his term.
Then in Jamaica, their prime minister called elections for September 3, but having been elected in February 2016, he had just five months left on his term and probably didn’t want to campaign over Christmas when people might suffer even broker pockets than they have now.
In the end, just 37 percent of the Jamaican electorate bothered to turn up and the opposition there, on cruise control to lose in February because of a leadership kerfuffle, suffered a near wipeout.
Bermuda is a little different. With a population of just 64,000 souls, Bermuda’s Parliament has 36 members. The government there has a comfortable majority in the House, with elections not due until July 2022.
But the government was facing the prospect of up to five and possibly more by-elections (due to resignations from both parties) this year, so the premier called a snap election for October 2020.
He had suffered a number of embarrassments that caused him to lose some trusted lieutenants – including two ministers who quit after being outed for attending a lavish dinner party at a posh restaurant in Bermuda in breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Tynes is an astute follower of politics in all its fashion and venues and he no doubt knows all of this. But in probable oversight, he forgot to provide the context which perhaps would have obliterated the tenor of his argument.
— The Graduate