FREE National Movement chairman Carl Culmer.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will not call an early election unless his party is ready for one, telling The Tribune yesterday the FNM could be several months away from finalising its candidates.
“(The Prime Minister and I) talk on a regular basis and he knows where we are in the process and he would not call an election unless he knows we are ready,” he said.
Mr Culmer’s comments came as political observers are watching closely for signs Dr Minnis will call an early election.
Many in the Progressive Liberal Party believe Dr Minnis will do so, pointing to his recent Family Island trips and the passing of legislation implementing a permanent voter register.
At a press conference last week, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell claimed the FNM has bought election paraphernalia.
Mr Culmer said yesterday: “Fred is responsible for what party again? I don’t know about no paraphernalia and I am the chairman of this party and we haven’t decided on a theme or anything so how could we purchase paraphernalia?”
As for Dr Minnis’ Family Island travels, Mr Culmer said: “He has been having town meetings since 2017. That’s nothing new to the Prime Minister. The pandemic slowed the Prime Minister down from reporting to different constituencies but he made that commitment to Bahamians in 2017, saying ‘I will report to constituencies on trips.’”
Mr Culmer said the FNM has not yet officially considered the political future of incumbent MPs, saying none of them has indicated they will step aside before the next election.
He said the party is currently looking at seats occupied by the PLP and independents.
“We are still a year and change out from the election so as time draws nigh those not running will dictate whether or not they will run.
“We have several candidates vying for Central and South Andros, we have about five for Cat Island, for Centreville there are another five or six there. We want to give everybody a fair opportunity to go through the process.
“The Westminster system dictates that the Prime Minister determines when there will be an election, and not Fred Mitchell.”
Mr Culmer said Dr Minnis has said to him, “We are a year out, we must get our teams ready, work the field.”
“He wants to make sure there is ample time for persons to go around constituencies, for new candidates to go out there and work,” Mr Culmer said.
The process for selecting candidates in the FNM will involve a vetting committee, the executive committee and the council.
“That is a process that takes several weeks or even months,” Mr Culmer said. “The prime minister would not call an election unless he knows his party is ready.”
Mr Culmer did not say definitively whether the FNM will have a convention before the next election, instead saying the party is hopeful of having one.
He noted the impracticality of assembling more than 500 FNM members for a convention during a pandemic.
“We talked about a digital convention but a definite decision hasn’t been made,” he said.