Respect and democracy

The foundation of democracy and democratic ideals is respect for one’s fellow man and for the rights of the citizen.

One of the fundamental and instrumental rights of citizens in a democracy is the right to vote and to express one’s will through that vote, and The Bahamas traditionally enjoys high levels of voter participation.

Voting is sacred to Bahamians, and their sole power to choose who is to govern them and further their democracy ought to, at all times, be esteemed and paid requisite deference.

This is why statements by the prime minister, which ahead of the people’s vote on Election Day, declare what the people’s will shall be, should not be tolerated, as such statements are undemocratic and smack of absolutism.

If on a campaign stump, a prime minister as leader of a governing party declares anticipated victory as part of electioneering, the same is acceptable and has its place in our electoral process.

But if when asked by the Fourth Estate about a legislative agenda within a current five-year term, a prime minister effectually declares that his governance is continuous into a new term as though the results of a free and fair election are already a foregone conclusion. The same has no place in a democratic society.

Leaders in a democracy ought to demonstrate both through word and deed an abiding respect both for the principles and components of that democracy and for its citizens who cause them to exist.

Whether the Bahamian people decide to re-elect the current administration in the next general election is entirely and exclusively their choice to make, and to abate that choice by presuming to speak for it is to display essential disrespect for the Bahamian electorate and their will expressed at the polls.

When we wink and nod at our elected officials displaying undemocratic behavior, we encourage those who are to follow to sink deeper than their predecessors; thereby fueling a socio-political culture that undermines our best interests as Bahamians.

And if our representatives do not respect us in what is foundational in our democracy, they are less likely to respect us as they set about the tasks of governance.

Feeling disrespected by one’s elected officials is certainly not a new state of being for Bahamians, but over time, the danger for upcoming generations is the risk of large segments of the population withdrawing from the electoral process and from productive involvement in their democracy.

More and more young Bahamians are declaring that they are not interested in voting because they perceive disrespect and disregard for the average Bahamian as being the reality regardless of who one chooses to elect.

As such, they psychologically disconnect from the political process long before an election bell is rung, rendering themselves unaware of what is happening in their country and consequently unable to make informed decisions about their future therein.

These are generations of Bahamians who have no sworn or lifelong allegiance to political parties, and hence cannot be guilted or pressured into involvement in the democratic process via traditional partisan cues.

To capture the heart of young Bahamians — who are the future of this nation — and of all Bahamians, politicians must recognize that respect is non-negotiable, and that citizens will be much more willing to listen, understand and buy-in if they can feel in a tangible way that those they elect respect them and value them beyond the vote they desire of them.

No, Prime Minister Minnis, a consecutive term in office is not a foregone conclusion for any administration, including your own.

Respect for the constituents of Killarney and for Bahamians of all constituencies necessitates that you honor what is beyond your control and prognostication in a democracy — and that is the mind of a voter, his or her ability to think, and the will of the electorate on Election Day.

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