Choosing A New Path

EDITOR, The Tribune

That was the title of a long “Politicole” piece by Tribune columnist Nicole Burrows. It was delivered at the recent Future of Democracy Conference held at College of The Bahamas and published in The Tribune on Tuesday.

While I admire the optimistic idealism inspiring Ms Burrows, I can only hope that our future will fall into the hands of planners with a greater grasp of reality than she displays.

She asks us to believe in a hypothetical Bahamian nation that by the end of 2017 has been created by citizens and run by politicians of such a degree of selfless virtue that is unknown throughout recorded history.

It will be a Republic, with a brand-new Constitution, totally divorced from the monarchy and the Westminster system of government, governed by an elected President who names a Prime Minister and cabinet ministers accountable to the President and to a Parliament of elected representatives, or so-called “Bahamian patriots”.

Since all such patriots will be “free of political patronage” there will be no room for political parties.

With a government “of all the people ... transcending party line and party affiliations”, an electorate “fully unified” will presumably vote for just one slate of candidates.

Her essay says nothing about how we got from here to there. All we are told is that “the Bahamian people rose up for their country” - peacefully of course!

How did they induce our present Parliament, including the PM and his cabinet, to stand down and dissolve itself? Who, and how, will people be chosen to call a Constitutional Convention and write the new document? Who will approve and adopt it? Who will draw up the list of nominees for President and parliamentary seats? Who runs the country during all this process of change?

Just leave it to “the people”? Let’s be serious: that’s not a programme, it’s a catchphrase slogan; but that’s all Ms Burrows gives us. We should be spared visionary speakers who never come down to earth with specifics.

What’s more, her ideas are dangerous. Her disdain for political parties leads to just the sort of tyranny she attacks, the usual result of calling for national unity.

We need look no further than Germany under Adolf Hitler, where citizens voted National Socialism, or else.

The many phony democracies like Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe are similar, typically proclaiming the mandate of the ruling party because it gets a vast majority of the “popular” vote.

Any reading of history proves that democracy, even if imperfect, is best obtained under a multi-party system that defies “unity” and provides a strong opposition to the majority.

Yes, we do indeed need radical changes in our political leadership. But, in my opinion, they will be achieved within our present structure of governance, and not through the apocalyptic upheaval that Ms Burrows so enthusiastically, if unthinkingly, is proposing.



May 18, 2016.


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