There is a move afoot in the Free National Movement (FNM) for someone other than former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to serve as leader of the official opposition this term, and for the party to eventually move to new FNM leadership in a convention.
The FNM secured just seven seats in the House of Assembly in the general election on Thursday: Minnis in Killarney; Michael Pintard in Marco City; Iram Lewis in Central Grand Bahama; Kwasi Thompson in East Grand Bahama; Adrian White in St. Anne’s; Shanendon Cartwright in St. Barnabas and Adrian Gibson in Long Island.
In 2017, the party won 35 seats and Minnis had repeatedly declared that it will win all 39 in the 2021 election.
On Thursday night, Minnis said in a statement that he intends to serve as leader of the opposition. He has not yet been sworn in.
But there are influential forces in the FNM who want their party to be completely rebranded, with Minnis gone as party leader and as leader of the official opposition, according to internal sources.
While the FNM’s parliamentary caucus does not need the party’s approval to choose who will be leader of the opposition, it is understood that the MPs-elect want to be on the same page with the party.
In 2016, a majority of the FNM’s caucus in the House wrote the governor general and had Minnis removed as leader of the opposition, but that did not harm his standing as party leader. He easily cruised to an election victory and to the prime ministership.
Loretta Butler-Turner, then-opposition leader, served in that capacity for several months leading to the 2017 general election.
As opposition leader, she also appointed senators.
Some credible sources in the FNM told The Nassau Guardian on the weekend that some influential FNMs do not want Minnis to be the one to select senators, but want to see one of the other elected FNM members become official opposition leader as early as before the Opening of Parliament on October 6.
But deciding on which of the other six should serve in that role is expected to be a source of contention.
The party has a council meeting set for Wednesday to discuss its future direction, The Nassau Guardian understands.
Speaking about the FNM’s leadership, FNM Chairman Carl Culmer said, “Whoever the party decides to elect as its leader, this party will stand squarely behind them and make sure that they get the support from all of our people, the base.
“We will energize our base. We will get them going and whoever this party selects as leader, the party will support.”
The Guardian asked Culmer if there is a process ongoing.
He replied, “Select, elect whatever word you want to use, but there is a process that takes place. As you are aware, we just came out of election, so the party has to make some decisions.
“If Minnis is the leader, then we will support him. … The party must step back and analyze all the data to find out why we lost and all those other things. Once that decision is made, we will go forward.
“But to say we are just going to change leader, that is something that I will not say at this time. That is a decision that the party will have to say.”
When asked if the removal of Minnis as leader had been ruled out, Culmer replied, “I cannot say what is ruled out or what decision will be made. I’d like the democracy to take place and we need to speak to the leader to find if he is willing to continue leading or if he will decide to pass the mantle on to someone else.
“That is a decision that the party and the leader have to sit down and discuss.”
He said it would be premature to say the FNM will choose a new leader.
Culmer said there is a way to do things of this nature.
“There’s a process and there’s a right and wrong way to do things,” he said.
Culmer said the party will have to make a decision on when it will hold a convention.
“A convention will be [held],” he said. “But when? It will be in short order.”
Culmer said that while in opposition, the FNM will monitor the governing Progressive Liberal Party.
“Wherever we can help as a party, we will help to build this country,” he said.
“But also we will criticize when the criticism is due. We will not be like them and criticize anything that is good. If something is good and Bahamians can profit from it, we will say it is a good thing.
“If something is not good for Bahamians, we will say and say why it is not good and we will also make recommendations to replace what we criticize. So, with this FNM opposition, you will see a different type of opposition.
“You will see a mature opposition like you’ve never seen before in this country, an opposition that will be accountable to its members and the people of The Bahamas, and you will see an opposition that will be prepared to govern whenever the next election is called.”