Saturday, October 15, 2011

...five years after the May 02, 2007 general election, Bahamians face a new round with a decisive man at the top... It is now up to the electorate to decide whether they are going to entrust their future to a leader of indecision, or one of decision

FNM and PLP prepare for an election

tribune242 editorial

ON MONDAY, Prime Minister Ingraham announced the appointment of the Constituencies (Boundaries) Commission, which is expected to make its recommendations to Parliament by the end of this year with voters' cards ready for issue by early in the New Year.

By October 7, 134,000 voters had already registered in the 41 electoral constituencies for the 2012 election. They are still registering. However, the Boundaries Commission now has sufficient numbers to study the shifts in population in the various constituencies, and make recommendations to government on how the boundaries should be drawn for this election.

The Constitution provides for a minimum of 38 House members. Presently there are 41 (one extra seat added by the PLP in 2007), and so, if the population shifts warrant it, at least three constituencies can be eliminated and merged.

What a difference five years can make with a decisive prime minister at the helm.

At this time five years ago, then Prime Minister Perry Christie was still dithering. He had not yet announced the close of the register, because of the poor turnout of citizens. By November 2006 just over 63,000 voters had registered in New Providence out of a projected 120,000 voters.

According to Mr Christie, he could not close the register because Bahamians were not registering fast enough, which resulted in him not being able to appoint a Boundaries Commission to decide electoral boundaries.

On March 22, 2007 Mr Christie said that there were compelling reasons why the work of the commission had to be delayed, which had nothing to do with inaction by the commission or the government.

"Instead," he said, "the delay, regrettably as it was, was the direct result of the very slow process of Bahamians registering to vote."

By comparison, Mr Ingraham announced this week that by the first week in January 2012 the Parliamentary Registration Department is expected to start the distribution of voters' cards. By the same time five years ago Mr Christie was still begging Bahamians to register so that the Commission could make a decision on the boundaries.

Apparently, Mr Christie refused to recognise that many Bahamians are very much like him -- slow to decide and even slower to act. Although Mr Christie was advised to announce a closure date early in 2006 for the 2007 election -- as Mr Ingraham had done earlier this year for the 2012 election -- he refused to do so. He was told that the only way to get Bahamians to move was to fix a date -- the floodgates would open, and registration offices would be filled. This seemed to take an extra long time for Mr Christie to compute and so three months before the 2007 election the Boundaries Commissioners were still floundering -- still nothing to report. It was only on the morning of March 19, 2007 - two months before the election - that Mr Christie presented the House with the Boundaries report.

It did not take a genius to predict that the 2007 election was going to be one of confusion. Up to that point political candidates were not even certain of their districts. First Bahamians were blamed because they were too slow to register. And naturally at the end of the day, someone else had to be blamed for the inevitable confusion that was to follow when voting did start. Naturally, the poor Parliamentary Commissioner, through no fault of his own, had to be the fall guy for the indecision at the top.

Here it was March 19, 2007 with Mr Christie standing before the House with the Boundaries Commissions report to be presented. One of the Commissioner's signatures was missing -- that of Brent Symonette, the only Opposition member on the committee. Mr Symonette had refused to sign because the PLP members had shunted him aside, treating his opinion with complete contempt. This will not happen this year as Mr Symonette, again appointed to the Commission, is one of the two members representing the government.

At this point in 2007, the Constitution was closing in on Mr Christie. If he didn't do his famous two-step shuffle quickly, on May 22 Parliament would automatically dissolve itself without him.

It was a huffing and a puffing to the finish line, which was eventually announced for May 2. The results were inevitable - the FNM won 23 of the 41 seats with the PLP winning the other 18. And now five years later Bahamians face a new election with a decisive man at the top. It is now up to the electorate to decide whether they are going to entrust their future to a leader of indecision, or one of decision.

It is only a matter of months before Bahamians are called upon to make that decision.

October 12, 2011

tribune242 editorial