FROM left, FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis, PLP leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis and DNA leader Arinthia Komolafe - but who will be at the helm of the next government of The Bahamas?
By GREGORY ROLLE
AS the political temperature heats up with just a year until the next general election, the Bahamian electorate will have many questions to ask. After Hurricane Dorian and the economic wrecking ball of COVID-19, any political party would face a struggle to stay in favour with fickle voters.
After 25 years of the Pindling-led PLP which supplanted the UBP, Ingraham and the FNM claimed victory in the 1992 general election – and that was the last administration to hold office for multiple terms.
Since 2002, the Bahamian people have swung back and forth between the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement, cementing our reputation of being a two-party country.
When Branville McCartney, a former Cabinet member in the Ingraham administration, became frustrated with his party and was eventually fired, it led to the formation of the Democratic National Alliance ahead of the 2012 election, it was the first time a third party seemed as though they would be a threat. While not being able to build enough momentum to win the election, the DNA certainly ensured that McCartney’s former colleagues lost it.
Wrestling the grip on power in politics from the establishment was what the ideals of the modern Bahamas were built on – tenets which many Bahamians felt were strayed away from over the last five decades. This much became evident ahead of the 2017 election when social activism became the catalyst to what many citizens had hoped would be a revolution in the shape of the We March movement.
This signalled changing dynamics in the political environment – where a unifying message may have been the first blow weakening the current establishment before something new could be built. As younger Bahamians have had the opportunity to be more engaged in the political process over the past two decades and find many hard to tell the difference between the two major parties, it becomes even more of a possibility for us to witness history.
Heading into its third election, has the DNA motivated Bahamians enough to become the next government? Has the PLP done enough to revamp its image? Has the FNM done enough to convince the Bahamian people that they’re worthy of a second term?
Even though DNA leader Arinthia Komolafe receives tremendous adulation, she competes with primitive perspectives over a woman’s ability to lead a country. For PLP leader Philip Brave Davis’ part, he competes with his party’s image and his proximity to its failures during his tenure in the last PLP administration, as he was the former Deputy Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, while in some quarters receiving sympathy for the challenges his administration has faced, still has questions over his ability to lead effectively. After all, true leaders recognise ahead of time that governance is not an easy job.
Continuing to ponder where each scenario leaves us, if we take into account the realities of Bahamian politics, there are not enough independent candidates who the Bahamian people take seriously enough to move the needle.
But what must be considered is the energy that surrounded the We March movement in 2017.
Marches that brought out thousands of Bahamians from every corner of society, adorned in black tee shirts with pumped fists symbolizing togetherness in a revolution. Such a spirit flowing through Bahamian people left many pegging the former leader of this movement, Ranard Henfield, as someone we could have envisioned as a future leader. However, his appointment as a senator by the Prime Minister soon after the election essentially pulled the plug on the revolution and killed his credibility with most Bahamians.
Nevertheless, what it has also done was lay a blueprint for what may not be a revolution, but perhaps an evolution.
Activist Lincoln Bain is no stranger to politics but has gained more notoriety of late for taking a page out of Henfield’s book – amplifying a message that can unify Bahamians in pain in the form of a Bahamas Evolution – a push for Bahamians to receive their piece of the economic pie through the sovereign wealth fund.
The past four years under the Minnis administration have been anything but the people’s time. After being hyper-critical of the former government’s decision to implement value added tax, the trust between the government and the Bahamian people was severed when VAT was increased from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. Then after Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, along with government policies which effectively shut down the economy, only die-hard FNM supporters and vehement PLP opposers still consider giving the government a second term.
Even individuals from those two groups struggle with the idea of handing Minnis the keys for a second term.
But who is the alternative? Is it Komolafe? Is it Davis? Is it Bain? Will Minnis remain the leader of the FNM as prospects of losing the election become more apparent?
Answers to these questions will naturally come to the fore as political strategists in each party factor in what matters. Assuming that what guaranteed victories 20 – or even ten years ago - will do the same today will be a costly mistake. As younger voters have had enough time to see what’s in the marketplace and tough times have taken over as a normal way of life, promises of transforming the economic futures of every Bahamian seem to become a very reasonable place to begin a conversation.
The Bahamian people are tired of the same old script, different cast brand of political leadership. Whether it results in a win or loss for any of the parties vying for leadership of the country will be one of the most interesting storylines as we move through election season.