EDITOR, The Tribune.
I THINK it was Jones Communications CEO Wendell Jones who recently told a guest on his Love 97.5 FM radio talk show Issues of the Day that the House of Assembly is a slippery place to be. I couldn't have said it better. I was amazed at the many new faces I saw in Parliament on May 23. Many of the so-called political juggernauts of the opposition Free National Movement (FNM) suffered major upset losses at the hands of relatively unknown Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidates. Individuals like Carl Bethel, Tommy Turnquest, Charles Maynard, Kenyatta Gibson, Phenton Neymour, Zhivargo Laing and Kwazi Thompson were all expected to win their seats. Their losses on May 7 only serves to remind the current 38 members of Parliament that the Bahamian people will not tolerate shoddy representation.
If you don't perform, you will be voted out. But in fairness to the aforementioned FNM politicians, the country had definitely experienced a paradigm shift from a political standpoint over the past four years due to the Great Recession. Their losses really had nothing to do with their individual performance in their respective areas. It had everything to do with the negative impact that the US recession has had on the Bahamian economy. The PLP was simply a beneficiary of circumstances that were simply beyond the control of the then government. Somebody once said that the most popular player on a one and fifteen National Football League team is the back-up quarterback. I think the same holds true in politics.
When the economy is in the doldrums, the official opposition is very popular, especially among poor, struggling grassroots voters. The two former leaders of the National Development Party (NDP), Renward Wells and Dr Andre Rollins, obviously sensed the mood of the electorate shortly after the 2010 Elizabeth by-election. Rollins contested that by-election and had failed to get back his election deposit. Not too long after that, he, along with Wells, joined the then opposition PLP. Rollins defeated the FNM's Zhivargo Laing and the Democratic National Alliance's (DNA) Mark Humes to win the seat of Fort Charlotte. Wells defeated the FNM's Cassius Stuart and DNA Leader Branville McCartney to win Bamboo Town, an FNM stronghold.
Wells was recently appointed permanent secretary of Works and Urban Development in the new Christie administration. Now that he has been given a gargantuan task by Prime Minister Perry G Christie, Wells must now juggle two responsibilities: Represent his constituents and perform his duties as permanent secretary. Wells' performance as member of Parliament in Bamboo Town must be exceptional. He must outperform McCartney, that area's last representative. McCartney was one of the best representatives in the House of Assembly.
Wells cannot afford to neglect that area as several of his party colleagues are alleged to have been doing for years in their grassroots, impoverished areas in Nassau. The PLP can afford to abandon areas like Centreville, Bain and Grants Town, Englerston and Nassau Village and still win those areas by over a thousand votes. The people in these crime infested, impoverished areas don't really care about good representation. They are PLPs and they are proud of it. Wells, however, will have to deal with a different set of dynamics in Bamboo Town.
As Wells should know, McCartney's failure to get re-elected really had nothing to do with his performance as MP. This country is dominated by two major political organisations. Wells knows this very well. That is why he, along with Dr Rollins, had decided to hitch their wagons to the PLP. It was an opportunistic move by both men. But I believe that Wells will end up being a one-term representative because of the constituency he currently represents.
After I had carefully studied the numbers in the Bamboo Town contest, I am of the firm belief that had McCartney not contested that seat this time around, Stuart would have been the sitting member of Parliament for that area, not Wells.
True, Wells out polled Stuart by 279 votes. He was able to secure 1,940 votes. Stuart got 1,661 votes. The incumbent McCartney managed to get 1,022 votes, and the independent candidate Craig Butler polled just 329 votes. In total, there were 4,952 Bamboo Town voters who had cast their ballots on Election Day. This means that the current PLP MP didn't even manage to get fifty per cent of the votes in that race. In fact, Wells got just 39.17 percent of the votes. This means that a whopping 60.83 per cent of the electorate who voted in that area rejected Wells. He is a minority representative. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the 1,022 voters who supported McCartney are disgruntled FNMs. Disgruntled FNMs who supported McCartney could be as much as 90 per cent of the 1,022 voters. In any event, had McCartney stayed with the FNM, it is more than likely that these same 1,022 voters would have supported him.
Add that figure with the 1,661 who voted for Stuart, then this means that McCartney would have at least polled 2,683 votes, instead of the 1,022 he got. He would have beaten Wells by 743 votes. But let's supposed that Butler was not in this race, and that the 329 voters who had supported him had thrown their support behind Wells. Wells would have polled 2,269 votes instead of the 1,940 he got. But he still would have fallen short of McCartney's 2,683 votes by 414 votes. All this means that Wells, to use Jones' words, is truly in a very slippery place. Whatever he does in the next five years, he should not get too comfortable in Bamboo Town. That area is an FNM stronghold. If the DNA party isn't around in 2017, the FNM will easily win back that seat. I think Wells understands this.
May 30, 2012.