By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DURING negotiations for a union between their two parties earlier this year, Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney wanted the Free National Movement to leave as many as 14 seats uncontested to clear the way for DNA candidates in those constituencies, sources familiar with the talks said.
But the negotiations broke down during the summer after FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis refused Mr McCartney’s request, The Tribune understands.
The two parties aroused national interest in May when they appeared open to forming a coalition to challenge the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr McCartney and Dr Minnis negotiated terms for the union over several months, meeting face-to-face multiple times with advisors and high-ranking officials in the party, The Tribune understands.
The pair had several meetings prior to the FNM’s convention in July and just after that.
However, the talks fell through after the two failed to compromise on two key issues: the number of seats the FNM would leave uncontested, and the question of whether the DNA would disband and join the party.
Mr McCartney wanted the FNM to leave “30 per cent” of constituencies uncontested to increase the chances of DNA candidates winning in those areas, well-placed sources told The Tribune.
One of those seats was Bamboo Town, Mr McCartney’s former seat, now represented by Renward Wells.
Mr Wells ran on the PLP’s ticket in 2012 before quitting the party to join the FNM in 2015.
Dr Minnis, however, was only willing to leave three or four seats uncontested by the FNM, The Tribune was told.
The FNM was also adamant that the DNA completely disband and join the party, a request Mr McCartney refused.
“A number of things were discussed as possible arrangements between our two parties,” FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said when contacted by The Tribune yesterday.
“Those discussions fell down on the inflexibility of Mr McCartney. We were not about to capitulate to the likes of the DNA.
“Their requests were obviously unacceptable to the FNM. We are a national party intent on recapturing the government of the Bahamas. We are confident in our ability to win an election and we are not distracted by the imaginations of the DNA or Mr McCartney,” Mr Turnquest said.
In May, FNM Chairman Sidney Collie denied that high-level discussions over a potential coalition had taken place between the DNA and the FNM.
“There are no negotiations, absolutely no negotiations by the leader and none by the chairman,” he said at the time.
Mr McCartney could not be reached for comment up to press time yesterday.
However, in the past he has blamed the failure for a partnership between the two parities on Dr Minnis, saying he lacks political acumen.
In September, he said a union between them would help the FNM but hurt the DNA.
“They have lost a significant amount of support in this country and although you may have a number of persons wanting to see some type of union, going and dealing with the FNM is like changing decks on the Titanic,” he said at the time. “That would not benefit the DNA. It will benefit the FNM.”
And last week he underscored that past talks between himself and the FNM leader “came to naught” because the established party was insistent that the DNA be dissolved and refused to credit the organisation as a viable political force. Mr McCartney noted that the discussion was remarkably easier with Mrs Butler-Turner, who focused instead on national goals and was “very much on the same page” as he on national issues.
“Discussions (with Dr Minnis) going on from that seemed to have come to a standstill, a road block, knowing full well that we want what is good for this country but having those discussions were, seemed to have been, difficult to say the least.
“The discussions with (Mrs Butler-Turner), we are on one accord with regards to where the country ought to go. It was very easy discussion for the most part,” Mr McCartney said on Tuesday.
The DNA is now engaging in an “alliance” with “rebel seven” leader Loretta Butler-Turner, who was sworn in as leader of the Official Opposition last week Sunday.
This came days after she and six other FNM MPs wrote a letter to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling expressing no confidence in Dr Minnis.
Mrs Butler-Turner announced last week that she has appointed Mr McCartney as leader of Opposition Business in the Senate.
Last week, it was also revealed that the two had been in discussions long before the MPs ousted Dr Minnis from his post. She told The Nassau Guardian that she had entered discussions with the third party leader in 2014, when she first contested the FNM’s leadership post and lost to Dr Minnis.