ALL is not well in the ranks of the FNM.
The party seems to be divided, with little sign of unity coming any time soon.
Some of this seems to be manufactured by partial interests in the party – with considerable talk of a rivalry between party leader Michael Pintard and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
Dr Minnis, of course, was roundly voted out at the last election by a Bahamian electorate unhappy with his tenure through the twin hurdles of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic.
And now there are calls for a convention, the latest being from former Deputy Prime Minister Desmond Bannister, who has called for one “at the earliest possible date”.
The party’s constitution mandates a convention every two years – with the last convention having been held in November 2021. So a convention is due, certainly, but the question is what will a convention achieve?
No matter who is leader after such a convention, will the rest of the party unite to support him? There has been little sign of certain factions giving such support to Mr Pintard after being appointed leader.
Dr Nigel Lewis, who coordinated the last FNM general election campaign, says as much in his leaked response to Mr Bannister’s convention call.
He said: “There is nothing indicating that your man and the other mercenaries will stop at anything less than the return of the last leader. Nothing less.”
Mr Bannister, in his letter calling for the convention, also throws around some reckless comments. Last week, the party’s vice chairman, Richard Johnson, was involved in a physical altercation outside the FNM headquarters. Mr Bannister described that as a politically inspired attack, despite the absence of any evidence that has been presented to support such an allegation.
That said, the party’s constitution does indeed call for a convention – and a party should honour its constitution, though there have been times in the past when conventions have been long overdue.
Mr Bannister writes that delaying a convention diminishes confidence in Pintard’s leadership – and while Mr Bannister might be wishing for a convention to allow Dr Minnis to stage a challenge, he is not wrong that a delay makes Mr Pintard seem as though he has a reason to avoid calling such a gathering.
Some have pointed to the recent by-election as a blow for Mr Pintard – but in truth, the FNM lost a by-election they were expected to lose. The margin did not shift in their direction – but equally, Dr Minnis did not offer any support on the campaign trail to the party’s efforts. Had he thrown his weight behind the campaign, might that have shifted the dial? Perhaps, perhaps not. But his absence was noted, and perhaps gave uncertain voters another reason to stay home. If you cannot even count on the support of a previous leader, can you count on turning out the vote in a by-election that would not shift the dynamics of Parliament substantially?
Whether the leader is Dr Minnis, Mr Pintard or someone else entirely, this division in the party is not helping it make its case that it ought to be the next administration.
By comparison, looking across at the PLP, there was plenty of division on show in the lead-up to the party’s own convention and in choosing its by-election candidate, with Shane Gibson particularly vocal in his criticism, sometimes thinly veiled of party chairman Fred Mitchell especially.
But come the election trail, there was Mr Gibson showing his support and cheering on the candidate.
What can the FNM learn from that? Well, it probably depends on how willing certain individuals are to learn – and how many are putting party before personal interest.
If the FNM wants to make a convincing case to the electorate at the next general election, it first needs to convince its own members.
Military strategy talks of the problem of fighting a war on two fronts. The FNM cannot fight both the PLP and itself and expect to win.