The people have spoken

The Bahamian people have soundly rejected Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and the Free National Movement’s (FNM) bid for a second term, continuing with the voter trend since 2002, which has seen administrations fall after just one term in office.

Being nothing if not consistent with regard to democratic norms, Minnis did not face his party and the public to concede the loss, but rather issued an aloof press release, advising therein that he phoned incoming Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis to congratulate him for the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) victory at the polls.

To up-and-coming FNMs, Minnis’ release read, “I say to the next generation of FNMs that you should stay firm to this party’s founding ideals. Always put the people first, and be honest in government.”

Had the outgoing prime minister embodied in leadership what was penned in his release, there could have perhaps been a different story to what was a blowout defeat for the FNM.

The 2021 snap election had a notably low voter turnout compared to previous elections, which can no doubt be attributed to COVID fears, voter disenchantment and disenfranchisement, and an appreciable level of undecided voters who ultimately chose not to participate in the process.

The FNM was wiped out of New Providence, holding only the party strongholds of St. Anne’s and Killarney and the inner city seat of St. Barnabas, and the party lost all Family Island seats with the exception of the FNM stronghold of Long Island.

Minnis and the FNM took a loser’s gamble on irredeemable public apprehension of Davis and the PLP, and in turn were served with a resounding message at the polls that it was the FNM under its current leadership that the Bahamian people did not trust and would not ratify with a second term.

The former governing party also took a bad gamble on the public crediting it with a sound COVID response, effective economic management and transparent and accountable governance.

And the FNM underestimated, or perhaps chose to ignore, the level of public animosity against its leader, and that the election would be a referendum on his leadership.

Referring to The Bahamas’ “proud democratic tradition”, Minnis advised via his press statement that he, “will lead the Free National Movement into the House as the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”.

Democratic traditions feature the offer of resignation by a leader who takes his or her party to defeat at the polls, with the retention of party leadership occurring only if the party makes such a determination.

Yet even in defeat – and very likely without consultation with his party – Minnis has, at least for now, chosen not to follow in the very democratic traditions his press statement paid lip service to.

In so doing, he has defiantly told his party that he will not do the honorable thing and step aside for the good of the organization – a stance we expect to undergo challenge not long from now.

Davis told jubilant supporters last night that he will work to overcome the doubts of the people.

That he showed no hesitation in acknowledging such doubts notwithstanding his party’s super-majority win at the polls, is potentially a hint that the incoming prime minister is at least open to the people’s concerns, and willing to address them without the air of resentment that comes from leaders who take umbrage to public sentiment that calls for a high level of performance.

Davis indicated a plan to be a unifier and a leader of inclusion, which we hope to see manifested in the public interest.

We congratulate Davis and his team, and look forward to the formation of his Cabinet, which will set the tone for the viability and credibility of the PLP’s pledges to bring about a new day for the Bahamian people.

The people have spoken, and henceforth, their voices must not be ignored. 

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