By ADRIAN GIBSON
THE upcoming election cycle is setting up to be a sulfurously partisan and venomous affair, a true soap opera featuring politically shrewd operators, mountains of dollars and, moreover, seems to be one that will leave grown men whimpering. That said, unless I am grossly underestimating the so-called backlash against the major parties—and I doubt that I am—anyone who honestly thinks that the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) will win the next election within a year of its formation is a bonafide citizen of fantasy land!
Whilst the DNA could very well capture a few seats (this is also up for debate), unless they are using some kind of Jedi mind trick, it would be fairly neurotic to believe that they could win a majority of seats as a political upstart, particularly in our political culture—where voters are fickle and vacillate as regards their choices—and in the face of the evidence of what has already happened, locally and abroad, relative to new political entities.
From the ground up
The history of party politics in the Bahamas is illustrative of the challenges facing the DNA. The PLP was founded in 1953 and did not win the government until 1967, which ended in a tie that was broken when Sir Randol Fawkes and Alvin Braynen joined the party, and after the party had arduously toiled in the political vineyard for more than a decade.
Likewise, the FNM was formed in 1971 and wandered the political wilderness for 21 years before becoming the government in 1992. To be frank, this was the state of affairs involving both the PLP and the FNM, taking both parties years to amass a strong base. Moreover, the FNM, at the time of its formation, was seeking to become the alternative to the governing PLP and, even as the second major party, it took the organization more than two decades before winning the general election. The DNA is today the third alternative, fighting against two political powerhouses with built-in support bases.
A new era?
Having said that, will the 2012 electoral cycle be representative of a new political era?
As a young, educated Bahamian I’m still waiting to hear the DNA enunciate a lucid, forward-thinking national plan that goes beyond the generic rhetoric and populist grandstanding of its leader, Branville McCartney.
Moreover, whilst the DNA has nominated a few superb candidates—for example, McCartney, Randy Butler, Chris Mortimer, Wayne Munroe, Roscoe Thompson—the party has selected a few standard bearers that have left me, and countless others, scratching our heads and reacting with a collective smirk.
In this hyper-partisan environment, the ground is apparently being loosened under DNA leader Bran McCartney as the governing FNM has neither announced a slate of candidates nor an election date, presumably a strategic move to allow for all the flair concerning the DNA to fizzle-out by election day. Indeed, the DNA’s summer momentum appears to have died down.
Quite honestly, although Mr McCartney is seeking to become the dragon-slayer who defeats two political titans—Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie—whilst effecting a new generation of leadership, he must remember that Prime Minister Ingraham is, admittedly, a legislative technician and a political virtuoso and also that both gentlemen are towering political figures and therefore will not be easily dispatched.
If there’s something that the DNA can be credited for, it’s for reinvigorating the masses, especially young people, and jumpstarting an election cycle where certain panicky, high-minded politicians have already climbed off of their pedestals with the hope of saving their own hides in their respective constituencies. Indeed, Mr McCartney and the DNA are amassing a large following, however Mr McCartney must be careful not to be consumed by youthful egomania, become enclosed in a cocoon of self-adulation and hero worship or become another short term nuisance—that is, a self-seeking, bloviating vacuity.
Thus far, the DNA has effectively created an us (DNA) versus them (FNM/PLP) atmosphere amongst the electorate, taking on an anti-establishment posture that has been well received.
I’m informed that in this election cycle, the leaders of both major political parties intend to politically emasculate Bran McCartney and put him in a clown suit.
Frankly, whilst the general consensus is that Mr McCartney’s DNA will attract more FNM voters as opposed to PLPs, it is my belief that political tacticians must not take comfort in that as both traditional PLP and FNM voters have expressed an interest in the party but, even more, the youth vote is where the DNA has built its strongest base. No one should dare ignore the strength and likely turnout of young voters this election cycle!
Mr McCartney was once on the fast track to becoming the face of the FNM. There are many persons who would argue that he “severed” his ties with the FNM because he wanted to be the alpha male in a Hubert Ingraham-led FNM and, when he couldn’t, he left in a huff.
Will McCartney one day abandon the DNA and return to the FNM? Is his tarrying with the DNA a strategic move just to prove his leadership and organizational skills to the internal machinery and hierarchy of the FNM, with hopes of being invited to lead the party—an Ingraham-esque type of invitation (circa 1990)—in a post Ingraham era?
Is Bran another Icarus? Will he be yet another man, another forlorn third party leader who had a dream and flew too close to the political sun only to have his wings burnt/melt away as he falls to his political death? Is the DNA a political titanic?
Many voters are seeing a vote for the DNA as a protest, as a way of expressing their discontent with both major parties, a dissatisfaction that is, admittedly, being voluminously echoed in some quarters of the archipelago. That said, this general election, what will the size of the electorate’s swing toward to the DNA be? And, could there be sufficient migration of independents and party supporters from both of the major parties to propel the DNA into the seat of government or, at the very least, win a few seats?
If the DNA wins a handful of seats, it would change the political calculus of Bahamian politics. Will the world of local politics be reset? And, if the DNA loses all seats in the next election, will the party promptly disband and become yet another doomed political experiment?
Sooner or later, the political gates will be unlocked and the electoral machinery of the parties will come charging through. Although it’s highly unlikely that the election will have a miraculous ending in favour of the DNA, it would be a colossal misjudgment to underestimate the potential impact of the DNA in the upcoming general elections.
Time will tell…
Published: October 8th, 2011 in column Young Man’s View in The Tribune’s ‘The Big T’
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