MICHAEL Pintard has won the favour of the FNM to be chosen as the party leader – and now must win the favour of the Bahamian public as he seeks to turn the party around.
He was the likeliest winner of the leadership race, and that proved to be the case as he won two-thirds of the votes cast to beat Iram Lewis and Kwasi Thompson to the role.
His appointment is to be welcomed, not least because it moves the FNM on from the general election defeat, and will no longer see former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis as the Leader of the Opposition. If the FNM is indeed to try to change and present a new face to the public, that process couldn’t start while an old face still led the party in the House.
Now Mr Pintard will have a chance to present himself as a new leader, perhaps a different kind of leader.
We will see too if the party can work with the PLP where necessary, whether such elements as the Parliamentary Accounts Committee – which should be a powerful method of holding the government to account – can be effective once more, and whether the FNM is willing to admit its missteps in government.
There has been a hint towards that already from Mr Pintard, who spoke of the party’s “unforced errors” in office.
A further barb came from former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who said that Mr Pintard “will not be someone who excludes anybody or kicks anybody to the curb”. The unspoken words there hinted that this would be unlike Mr Pintard’s predecessor.
That predecessor, Dr Minnis, says that he will remain an FNM supporter – and said that “Pintard and the entire party will have my full support”. Dr Minnis remains an MP, and will sit alongside his new party leader in the House of Assembly.
It will not be easy for Mr Pintard to live up to his pledge of unifying the FNM. Deep splinters have appeared in the party over the years – so much so that the party’s former deputy leader, Loretta Butler-Turner, now suggests she is more aligned with the PLP.
Those who were cast aside under Dr Minnis may not be easy to bring back into the fold – but that is the challenge facing the new leader.
Mr Pintard faced that head on after his election, saying: “We’re calling on our sister, Loretta Butler-Turner, we want you to know the tent is open, feel free to join us. Hubert Chipman, Richard (Lightbourn), Neko Grant.”
He also suggested he would be calling on Dr Minnis, saying: “I told our immediate past leader, I said, sir, Dr Minnis, know that I will be blowing up your phone on a regular basis, sir. You are on speed dial. We intend to utilise the skills, the network, the talent of our former Prime Minister Hubert Alexander Minnis.”
With questions circling about some of the decisions made by Dr Minnis in office – and indeed the people who drifted away after falling out with him – that may test Mr Pintard’s bid to bring unity, but time will tell.
It is also reassuring to see that he does not wish to rush into decisions but approach some things in a collective manner – saying that he would not comment on Senate appointments because “we are going to have a discussion as a family and then we are going to address that issue publicly”.
He went on to say that they would “plan the way forward”. Taking the time to think and plan makes sense. The country needs a strong Opposition – regardless of which party is in office. We hope Mr Pintard can put the FNM on the path to holding the government to account, for the sake of improving our nation.