Matt Aubry, executive director of the Organization for Responsible Governance.
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
A representative from a local non-profit organisation says a fixed election date will bring more stability to the Bahamian election process.
For weeks there has been speculation about the possibility of the election “bell” being rung before May 2022 when the election is due.
The Progressive Liberal Party believes an election will be called this year and House Speaker Halson Moultrie this week said he expects an election around June.
Under the current system, the decision on the next election date rests in the hands of the Prime Minister.
Matt Aubry, ORG’s executive director, said a fixed election date will bring about accountability to the whole election process.
“When it comes to the issue of a fixed election date it also brings more stability in regards to the individual candidate’s capacity to develop and mobilise their efforts,” Mr Aubry said. “So taking some of the question marks out of the process does help. So those groups, like ours, are trying to bring some more openness, transparency and accountability to the process. It gives a more stable opportunity for that.
“There is a lot of energy that goes into the process of election – a lot of speculation and a lot of he said and she said. If we could look at a fixed date, if we could look at more clear established rules, if we could look at more opportunities for inclusion and citizen engagement, it creates stronger democracy. I think that’s ultimately everybody’s benefit.”
Judging from all the political back and forth on social media, Mr Aubry called this “silly season” and said it is typical of Bahamians to vote out a party as opposed to voting one in.
“This is the silly season,” he continued. “You are seeing a lot of rhetoric; party versus party and as much discussion regarding the issues and what each candidate might bring or what they might put forward. So it becomes party against party.
“Historically what we’ve seen is that Bahamians do come out very strongly around election time and seem to be very comfortable in voting out the groups they are not happy with versus voting in the candidates that they might identify could create solutions. So my organisation has talked a lot about bringing more regularisation and standardisation to the election process.”
He said a fixed date can stabilise the process with campaign finance laws that bring more equity, drive more inclusion and educate the voters to focus more on the issues.
He continued, “When it sits in the hands of one party versus another, of course they are going to use that date to what they feel is to their best advantage whether it is to support their election or what the country may need at that time. And, that is a very subjective presentation. That is giving difference to those that hold power.
“It doesn’t necessarily speak to the capacity of citizens having a greater voice than individual voters to establish and know what they need to do to be able to use their vote as meaningful as possible. Getting beyond the ‘my party versus your party’ there needs to be a much deeper dialogue and a lot more resources to support citizens in the process.”
Clearly calling for more involvement of this country’s citizens in the process, Mr Aubry went on to note that Bahamians need a say in what is established as a national “priority”.
“So they can advocate, not to just have a one-way conversation to present what they feel is critically necessary,” he said.
“Ultimately if one party goes in and another party goes out you can see if it’s all in the government’s hands that there can be a loss of momentum, there can be things that fall off in terms of priority. However if the citizenry has identified their priorities those then can be the constant.
“We need to think about elections and election practices that support the greatest involvement, not just in terms of coming out and making your vote, but also in terms of being able to use that vote as meaningfully as possible. So that’s why there should be a fixed election date.”