By ADRIAN GIBSON
THE upcoming election cycle is setting up to be a sulfurously partisan and venomous affair, a true soap opera featuring politically shrewd operators and mountains of special interest dollars.
Bring out the crying towels because this one will leave grown men whimpering and calling out for mama. This time around, the Bahamian electorate must choose only the most progressive and visionary of a fluid field of hopefuls seeking their votes, whilst shedding certain current MPs like a septuagenarian sheds hair and teeth.
That said, the new political parties popping onto the scene will make little to no impact. This election will be one dominated by the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and, to a lesser extent, with the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) serving as a spoiler. I doubt the DNA will exist in 2017 though. The party is already hobbled by the mass departures of several former candidates.
I understand that DNA leader Bran McCartney has been in talks with the FNM; however one does not know if those talks have continued since the holder of Mr McCartney’s former seat, Renward Wells, crossed the floor and joined the FNM. It is unfortunate that we have yet to embrace third parties or a coalition style of governance but, as it stands, the main political showdown in 2017 is between the FNM and the PLP.
So here comes Marco City MP Greg Moss, who announced a few days ago that he has launched a new political party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), and stated that he has been elected leader of the organisation. According to Mr Moss, the party was formed on Sunday, November 22, and would contest every seat in the House of Assembly during the next general election.
The announcement got as much traction as a snowball in hell. There was no buzz, no excitement. The DNA received buzz but the announcement of the UDP is comparable to a thud. It appears that the party is a stillborn. Bahamians do not appear to be concerned with it. For many, it appears as if the UDP is viewed much like the Christian People’s Movement, led by recently convicted sex offender Stephen Serrette. Of course, that comparison relates only to the fact that both entities were dismissed out-of-hand.
During the last general election, it appeared that third parties were willing to run anyone willing to offer themselves. For one, the DNA found itself in a stew on more than one occasion and, as one DNA insider told me some time ago, they regret running many of the folks that they did.
What we are seeing is an age of kamikaze politicians, many of whom know little about why they are seeking office other than self-aggrandisement and who merely become political martyrs who destroy the political hopes, dreams and aspirations of others in constituencies where an unqualified, chronic benchwarmer is returned to power by default or because of a spoiler.
In 2012, on the heels of the PLP’s concept of “new generation of leaders”, newcomers such as Dr Andre Rollins, Mr Wells, Mr Moss and Dion Smith were all ushered into mainstream politics.
Mr Moss was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Marco City constituency. He received nearly 50 per cent of the 5,130 possible votes in that middle-class district of Grand Bahama. He was later named chairman of the National Insurance Board (NIB).
In mid-2012, shortly after his appointment, Mr Moss clashed with then NIB director, Algernon Cargill, over whether the Board should have fully taken up BAB Holdings’ $10m preference share issue. Mr Cargill said management had recommended NIB “not participate” in the private placement by BAB while Mr Moss told the NIB Investments Committee that Prime Minister Perry Christie and several Cabinet ministers were pushing for it to purchase the full $10m offered by BAB.
The investment opportunity was declined by the Ministry of Finance on October 1, 2012, after Mr Moss wrote a letter outlining the affair and management’s concerns. The relationship between Mr Moss and Mr Cargill never recovered and tensions grew. Soon, reports surfaced that NIB, on two occasions, came close to missing monthly payments to Bahamian pensioners after its chairman, Mr Moss, revoked management’s authority to “manage cash flow”. Those reports were alleged by Mr Cargill.
In documents filed with the Supreme Court, he claimed that Mr Moss’ August 2012 decision to remove management’s power to control NIB’s investment portfolio resulted in more than $15m being left in a non-interest bearing account at the Central Bank of the Bahamas for several days. In his affidavit, Mr Cargill said he received on August 2, 2012, a memorandum from Mr Moss requesting that no management executive “engage in placing or renewing the placement of any of the funds” belonging to NIB without first getting approval from the Board or its relevant committee.
On January 3, 2013, just months after being appointed NIB chairman, Mr Moss was asked by the Prime Minister to resign or be fired after the disgruntled MP criticised the PLP leader on his Facebook page. A defiant, Mr Moss refused to resign. He was sacked the next day. Before the termination took effect, sources close to the Marco City MP said he wanted “history to show” that he was “terminated” from his post by the Prime Minister for fighting corruption at NIB.
In a letter to Mr Christie, Mr Moss wrote that he could not tender his resignation, as doing so would be the equivalent to an “admission” that he had done something wrong in the discharge of his duties as chairman of NIB.
In the weeks following his dismissal Mr Moss joined fellow political newcomer, Dr Rollins, in a scathing criticism of the PLP leadership and direction. Both criticised the government’s plan to implement Value Added Tax (VAT), suggesting that it would only worsen financial woes for everyday Bahamians.
He resigned from the PLP this summer.
During the 2012 general election, we saw a nomination day count of 133 people seeking to represent the Bahamian public in a fight for 38 seats. Among the strong and seasoned contenders were a slew of bright newcomers, peripheral figures and a series of wannabes and also-ran candidates.
The upcoming election cycle seems likely to again spawn a noxious political environment where we will hear political rhetoric spouted by some of the most proficient spinners since Rumpelstiltskin. In the fast-paced age of social media, we will no doubt have front-row seats to a time of incivility as reckless behaviour and the architects of lies, revisionist spin, braggadocio and petulant whining goes into full swing – some of this stuff can only be categorised as the utterances and actions of nincompoops.
In 2017, unless Greg Moss and his party are using some kind of Jedi mind trick, none of them will get their deposits back. Mr Moss himself will not retain his deposit and, by all accounts, he in line for a political cut-hip for the ages. He will be an also-ran candidate. I do not see where Mr Moss has cultivated a base in Grand Bahama or across the Bahamas that would cause people to overwhelming flock to his party. It would be fairly neurotic to believe that they could win a majority of seats as a political upstart. The UDP should be contented with winning one seat ... but they won’t win that either.
Grand Bahamians have expressed great disappointment with the representation of the PLP. It appears that they will overwhelmingly vote against the PLP in 2017. However, I doubt Mr Moss will benefit from that.
The history of party politics in the Bahamas is illustrative of the challenges facing the UDP, the DNA and any third force. The PLP was founded in 1953 and did not win government until 1967, which ended in a tie that was broken when Sir Randol Fawkes and Alvin Braynen joined the party, and after the party had arduously toiled in the political vineyard for more than a decade.
Likewise, the FNM was formed in 1971 and wandered the political wilderness for 21 years before becoming the government in 1992. To be frank, this was the state of affairs involving both the PLP and the FNM, taking both parties years to amass a strong base. Moreover, the FNM, at the time of its formation, was seeking to become the alternative to the governing PLP and, even as the second major party, it took the organisation more than two decades before winning the general election.
The DNA is today the third alternative, fighting against two political powerhouses with built-in support bases. The UDP is the fourth ... but, for the sake of argument, we can group them together as third parties.
Based upon its launch, and the laughable response to it on social media and elsewhere, the UDP is unlikely to have even a fraction of the support the DNA garnered in 2012. Their longevity – at least during this political cycle – will depend on their financial backers. Who are the figures financially supporting this new political entity?
So will the 2017 electoral cycle be representative of a new political era? I doubt it.
I await Mr Moss’ national plan. I’d like to read it. I hope it’s not more of the same generic rhetoric and populist grandstanding.
I am also looking forward to seeing who they select as their standard bearers. I hope I’m not left scratching my head, smirking and totally bewildered as I was when the DNA rolled out their slate that fateful night in 2012. I suspect that I will be.
I suspect that Mr Moss and his party will become another short term nuisance – a self-seeking, bloviating vacuity.
In the long run, the UDP – much like the CDR, the NDP and so many other third parties before them – will become another political carcass to eventually litter the political boneyard.
Will Greg Moss one day abandon the UDP and return to the PLP or join the FNM? Will he be yet another Icarus, another forlorn third party leader who had a dream and flew too close to the political sun only to have his wings burnt/melt away as he falls to his political death?
For Greg Moss, the UDP is his political Titanic. If the DNA exists in 2017, they are more likely to obtain the protest votes.
The UDP’s political launch has not inspired me and others to see them as the political agents who will change the political calculus of Bahamian politics. Local politics will not be reset. It is yet another doomed political experiment that will promptly disband.
For Greg Moss and his cabal ... there will be no miraculous ending. That said, if he remains steadfast and continues to propel his party forward over the next 10 to 15 years ... who knows what could happen?
Next leader of the PLP?!
As I research and prepare a forthcoming column on the future of the PLP, according to many political insiders, stalwart councillors, PLP past and current parliamentarians and everyday citizens, the next leader of the PLP will either be Michael Halkitis or Alfred Sears. Thus far, interviewees have stated to me that these two are among the most erudite, plain-speaking and trustworthy members of the PLP, dismissing several others as either slick talkers of no substance, weak, over emotional prima donnas, washed up, too baggage laden, untrustworthy or more Perry Christie-esque than Perry Christie himself.
More on this in a few weeks.