The Democratic National Alliance
By Philip C. Galanis
The mission of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is to ensure that the needs and aspirations of Bahamian people – to be owners with the government in the political, cultural, and economic development of the nation – are met.
DNA mission statement
Since its launch in May, 2011 the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), the newest political party on the Bahamian landscape, has gained considerable traction with the Bahamian public, especially those who are clamoring for something different in our body politic. The pervasive pronouncement is that Bahamians are tired of the behemoth Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), or at least of the leaders of those two goliath political machines. So far, the DNA has named 26 candidates to contest next year's general election and promises to field a full slate of candidates, which is unprecedented for such a new political party. Therefore this week we would like to Consider This... Does the DNA have staying power? Can it form the next government and what kind of governance could we expect from this fledging political party?
Historically, third parties have not fared well in Bahamian politics. The last endeavor of an organized third party, the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR), met the fateful disaster of not having any of its candidates poll sufficient votes to enjoy a refund of their deposits. Therefore, what makes the upcoming contest any different? Have Bahamian voters sufficiently matured to embrace a third alternative?
Some political pundits and pollsters have suggested that Branville McCartney, the DNA's self-appointed leader, is the most popular politician in Bahamian politics today and that his magnetic mass appeal stems from his courage in taking on his former political mentor, the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, much as the latter took on his political mentor, the Rt. Hon. Sir Lynden Pindling in 1992. The only thing that Bahamians love more than a winner is a brash, brazen leader who is prepared to buck the established order. Will McCartney and his DNA "green team" have what is required to translate those ingredients into a winning team? And if the DNA cannot win an outright plurality, will they be spoilers, winning enough seats to form a coalition government?
Many Bahamians have repeatedly asserted that while Ingraham and Christie are tried and tested, there is a perception that they are tired, with few new ideas, have exceeded their relevance on the political stage and that now is the time for them to exit. Furthermore, both of those leaders are now in their sixties, and many developed and developing democracies are trending toward leaders in their forties and fifties, including the recent change in Jamaica.
That the DNA has gained any traction at all seems to support the proposition that Bahamians are now ready for a tectonic shift in the established order. Their appeal could be as much grounded in their freshness and youth as in a yearning for a generational shift, precipitated by our changing demographics. The DNA seems to be gaining considerable appeal among young voters who increasingly constitute a very large segment of the voting populace. Furthermore, the DNA has positioned itself as a party of the middle class, compared to the PLP and the FNM who are seen to represent grassroots and elitist voters, respectively.
The DNA's challenges
The most pronounced challenge which the DNA has to overcome is its inexperience. With the exception of its leader, none of the DNA candidates have any experience in governance. Those who say that Lynden Pindling and his team did not have any experience in government when he first became premier in 1967 are missing a very essential point. While it is true that Pindling and his team were inexperienced in actual governance, they were certainly experienced in parliamentary democracy, with many years experience in Parliament before attaining majority rule. This is an extremely important difference and one that should not escape or be easily dismissed by the green team.
The DNA's first test will be a demonstrable ability to construct a national election machine to stage a national campaign. If it can do that, the most essential question which McCartney has to address is whether the Bahamian people are prepared to hand over the government to such an inexperienced group of newcomers. And if the DNA were to win, it will take a very long time for a DNA government to learn the system of governance along with the workings of the deeply entrenched and all-powerful public service, as well as to obtain a basic understanding of how to run a country. The DNA's first test as government will be the preparation and defense of a national budget, no mean feat for even a seasoned political organization. And, no matter how brilliant the ideas and vision of the DNA, in our present precarious circumstances, we must ask if our country can afford the time it will take these political newcomers to learn the ins and outs of how to run the country.
Another important consideration is that most of the DNA's announced candidates are unknown on the national scene. What does the electorate really know about its candidates and their backgrounds? What do they stand for and have they been successful in their various professional or occupational endeavors?
In addition, the DNA has not yet clearly articulated its platform. What differentiates the DNA from the other mainstream parties? We are still not certain what the party stands for and how it will implement its agenda. What skills do they have in drafting the legislation that it will have to table in Parliament in order to implement its programs and policies? Who will comprise the cabinet and what experience will such persons bring to their various portfolios? And is the DNA prepared to make the many appointments to boards, commissions and the foreign service? These are the essential decisions that will have to be taken almost immediately if the DNA is transformed from a political party to a government. These are the issues that members of the electorate will have to consider when casting their ballots on Election Day.
We believe that the next general election will be keenly contested, fiercely fought and extremely exciting. As we saw in the Elizabeth by-election, many races will be cliffhangers and every single vote will be important.
One thing is certain. There seem to be more questions than answers regarding the DNA, questions that will certainly be answered on Election Day.
Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov 07, 2011