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INSIGHT: By-election more of a revelation of the state of the FNM than a test of the PLP

FNM leader Michael Pintard stands beside the party’s candidate for West GB and Bimini, Ricardo Grant. The FNM lost ground at the polls and it may indicate there is much work ahead for them at the next general election.

FNM leader Michael Pintard stands beside the party’s candidate for West GB and Bimini, Ricardo Grant. The FNM lost ground at the polls and it may indicate there is much work ahead for them at the next general election.

By Malcolm Strachan

WHEN the by-election in West Grand Bahama and Bimini was called following the passing of Obie Wilchcombe, there was a sense that it would be a mid-term test of the PLP administration. In truth, it seems to have turned out to be more of an assessment of the state of the FNM in opposition.

Before a single vote was cast, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham warned that historically by-elections favour the PLP – and so it proved, with the party not only retaining the seat but increasing its vote in the process.

That doesn’t mean that the FNM were on a hiding to nothing at the ballot box – far from it, simply ceding the ground would have raised more questions still about the state of the party.

Still, the campaign trail did not prove kind to the party, not least for exposing tensions within.

Mr Ingraham, after his early caution, was all in for the party, showing up on the campaign trail and coming up with some of the best soundbites along the way. One of the strongest lines in the campaign was asking how if Obie Wilchcombe could not deliver for the constituency, how anyone could expect a newcomer to politics to do so.

But while Ingraham joined the rallies and voiced his support, one figure was notable by his absence.

Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis was nowhere to be seen – except, that is, when he took time out from his not very busy schedule to announce that he was not just releasing one memoir, but a whole series of three memoirs.

Forgive me for saying so, but Dr Minnis is probably by some distance the least popular Prime Minister we have had – I can certainly imagine some people buying a single-volume memoir for historic interest, but quite what hubris Dr Minnis must have to think there is an eager community salivating for a three-volume memoir is beyond me. Tell us about the last fight you had that split the FNM, by all means. Tell us about the challenge of governing during the pandemic and Hurricane Dorian, absolutely. But we’re not sure that takes three books.

So why is Dr Minnis wanting to share his story with us again? Well, rumours persist that his interest in leading the party is not over – and that he thinks he can become Prime Minister again despite the landslide defeat he suffered at the last election.

It would not have taken much for Dr Minnis to dispel any suggestion of a divide between the party, but he chose not to show any support for the FNM candidate – on its own, so be it, but if there are Minnis loyalists within the party, that was a signal to those too.

As it happens, the by-election ended up with a low turnout, with a bizarre video showing someone dressed in party regalia saying he had $50,000 to give out if people brought him their voter’s cards. The outcome of that we shall wait and see, but the party distanced themselves from having anything to do with it – with the video emerging after the party made its own claims without providing evidence of PLPs handing out money in T-shirts.

Whatever the truth of these claims, if we are to believe the party’s campaign coordinator, David Wallace, people were telling the FNM they would only show up to vote if they were given a financial incentive.

Wallace, himself a former MP for the area, said: “People were calling you and saying ‘I’m not coming to vote until somebody come and touch me’. I said ‘touch you?’ I went to see a young lady and she said to me straight and plain, their position was, if they want my vote, this is what I want.

“I was working one polling division, Jones Town, and I got a call, one fella say he got 25 fellas together and they all got their voter’s card and they ain’ voting till somebody touch me. It was something like, it was breeding on its own or festering. One person said it, then the next person said it, and I said to myself, no man, you got to vote on principle.”

If correct, it means the FNM’s platform was not incentive enough on its own for people to come out – and perhaps that we are living out a self-fulfilling prophecy where allegations of vote-buying have become an expectation from voters.

In the end, whatever the reason, not enough voters came out overall – but notably the FNM could not stir up enough voters to say they have had enough of the current administration. They could not even stir up the party’s most recent Prime Minister, so maybe that should not come as a surprise.

Perhaps after two more years of the new MP, the constituency may feel different, but for now it’s bad news for the FNM.

Party leader Michael Pintard ended up defending his leadership after the vote rather than being able to attack the government’s record following the vote. And all the while with Dr Minnis a shadow in the background.

All in all, the campaign ended up being about the FNM – allegations against the candidate about participation in a pyramid scheme, questions about the absent Minnis, questions over what the candidate’s plan for the constituency was, doubts about the party leadership – more than the government, and that is never a good sign for a party in opposition.

Now that vote is over, we might as well start the ticking clock down to the next one – the general election. The FNM has issues to sort out before then – and seems not to be eager to call a convention in a hurry, presumably not least because of fears of a leadership challenge. If it is to succeed at the general election, it has to change the narrative to point out the failings of the government rather than their own. The work to do that, if the party is to thrive, has to begin now.

Comments

birdiestrachan 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Nice picture of a bunch of looser full of excuses .. and lies.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I dont think this said anything about the FNM, we need to be reminded that only 37% of registered voters voted for the winning PLP. That is damning non endorsement. I think the byelection results are a revelation that the Bahamian people at large, minus the rabid supporters and expectant contract awardees who will vote for anything in their colour tshirt, have had it with poor representation from both parties. Telling me I must vote for an incompetent visionless seat filler who will do nothing but bang on the desk for 5 years if I want to be heard is counterintuitive. Why not provide a clean system that righteous men are willing to participate in to move the country forward, then people will vote. And by righteous I dont mean holy and without fault, just ethical, principled, with standards and character.

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sheeprunner12 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Malcolm Strachan ............... we all hope that life lasts long enough to vindicate PM Minnis from the lies and garbage that are said about him. Enjoy your soapbox and add to the smear campaign.

Imagine if Davis & the PLP was running this country during Dorian & Covid .......... we saw a snapshot of what the PLP did during other smaller hurricanes under Perry and it was not pretty.

But, time is longer than rope ........... and Minnis will be vindicated from all of his PLP and FNM haters.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Oban maybe?? Remember the entire cabinet revolt? Even Jeff Lloyd his most ardent fan said there were some ~irregularities. That's saying alot. Minnis then apologized and pledged to be humble and change his ways which lasted for about a week

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pablojay 4 months, 2 weeks ago

It reflects more on Minnis than the FNM and shows just how selfish he was when he was PM. He kept his inner circle close to him and dismissed everyone else ,which kept him out of touch with reality ,an example of which can be seen by his calling of an early election . When he spoke of his next term in office, i longed for Potluck or Sideburns as i could envisage a cartoon with him adorned in his long white coat, clipboard in hand shouting "Next!"

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