By Philip C. Galanis
The three major political parties have named their entire rosters of 38 candidates for the upcoming general election, which, from all present indications, seems destined for the middle of April to early May. That is, of course, unless the prime minister decides to irreverently ignore the Lenten season which runs from February 22 to April 8, 2012, something he did in 1997 when general elections were held on March 14. On that occasion, the FNM won 34 seats to the PLP’s six, establishing the precedent to disregard the Lenten season for political expediency, with no disadvantage to the FNM.
This week we would like to Consider This…given the current compilation of candidates, are there any ‘sexy’ or especially thought-provoking campaigns that should be more closely watched in the upcoming skirmish? We can think of several and suggest that those worth watching closely are Bamboo Town, Montagu, Fort Charlotte, Long Island, The Exumas and Ragged Island and both Andros seats.
Bamboo Town is perhaps the sexiest of all races and is shaping up to be perhaps the most interesting race to watch. Absolutely none of the candidates now drafted will actually represent the party to which they initially belonged. They are all transplants. Branville McCartney, the leader of the newly-formed Democratic National Alliance (DNA) not long ago was a FNM minister. The Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) standard bearer, Renward Wells, until recently, was the leader of the National Development Party (NDP) before joining and being nominated by the PLP. Before recently joining the FNM, its candidate, Cassius Stuart, was a founding member and the leader of the Bahamas Democratic Movement which was formed in 1998. Craig Butler, the independent candidate, was an officer of the PLP until recently being denied a nomination by his former party. So, each of these candidates began his political career wearing other colors.
The person with the most to lose is Branville McCartney, because, as leader of the DNA, if he loses, by convention of the Westminster parliamentary system which we follow, he should resign as that party’s leader. That scenario would be even more interesting if some of his fellow candidates win their seats and he does not. Supposedly, the successful candidates, if any, would have to elect a new leader from those who are successful. In this particular battle, McCartney must have calculated that his former FNM votes could quite likely be cannibalized by the FNM.
There are several important considerations here. First, in the 2007 election, the PLP did not contest Bamboo Town. In that election, as presently constituted, the FNM polled 1,261 votes as opposed to independent candidate Tennyson Wells’ 999 votes. It is reasonable to assume that most of those were cast by PLP supporters who did not have a ‘horse’ in the race. Secondly, in its present incarnation, Bamboo Town has six polling divisions that were previously in the Kennedy constituency. In 2007, in those polling divisions, the PLP received 835 votes against the FNM’s 730. Hence, again as presently constituted, the combined PLP/independent votes would have totaled 1,834 compared to the FNM’s 1,991.
The real test here will be how many of Bran’s FNM voters last time will support him this time around, and will Cassius be able to attract sufficient support to win or will he split the FNM vote which will then work to Renward’s advantage? And, finally, how well will Craig Butler fare? Bamboo Town will be the ‘mother of all races’ to watch in 2012.
Montagu is also garnering intense interest. This seat has always been represented by the FNM standard bearer. The current candidates are Ben Albury (DNA), Richard Lightbourne (FNM), and Frank Smith (PLP). The most amazing development in this constituency is that, while it is called Montagu, there have been significant changes. Montagu is now comprised of 12 polling divisions from St. Thomas More, where last time the FNM and PLP polled 1,359 and 1,508 votes, respectively; five polling divisions from Montagu, where the FNM and PLP polled 1,086 and 330 votes, respectively; and one polling division from Marathon where the FNM and PLP polled 81 and 145 votes, respectively. Based on the total votes cast in 2007, the FNM and PLP polled 2,526 and 1,983 votes, respectively, and assuming that all things remain equal, the FNM would appear to have a decided advantage by 543 votes.
However, Frank Smith has great personal appeal with an effective ground campaign and superlative ‘street smarts’, while Richard Lightbourne is generally perceived to be a lackluster candidate. The spoiler factor here will be important because Ben Albury is also a very attractive candidate and will likely cannibalize FNM votes. Despite the apparent FNM advantage here, this contest will have more to do with personal appeal and voter connectivity than brand loyalty. This will be a fascinating race to follow.
Fort Charlotte will be another very interesting race. The veteran Zhivargo Laing (FNM), and newcomers Dr. Andre Rollins (PLP) and Mark Humes, chairman of the DNA, will contest that seat, which is presently represented by Alfred Sears (PLP). This constituency is also now a composite of most of the polling divisions of Fort Charlotte (nine polling divisions or parts thereof), two polling divisions from Killarney and a part of Killarney polling division number two. Based on the 2007 election results, as presently constituted, last time the FNM and PLP polled 1,637 and 1,700 votes, respectively. These figures do not include the parts of the polling divisions that have been changed.
While this race should be won by the PLP it is too close to call particularly given the campaign experience of the FNM’s veteran candidate, albeit he was rejected in Fort Charlotte in 2002, versus the rookie factor of the PLP and DNA candidates. Furthermore, it can be reasonably assumed that regardless of the reason for Zhivargo’s move from Marco City in Freeport to Fort Charlotte, Ingraham has made a calculated wager that he would like to ensure a victory for his “erstwhile son” – a victory that was questionable in Marco City.
The prime minister realizes that if he is to form the next government, he has to keep Bamboo Town and Montagu in the FNM win column and would like to increase his number by adding Fort Charlotte, particularly because he believes that he will lose ground in Grand Bahama given his government’s dismal performance there and that island’s anemic economic profile during the last five years.
Next week, we will review the prospects for the ‘sexy’ and significant races on Andros, on which the prime minister has publically declared he has set his sights, Long Island, and The Exumas and Ragged Island.
Jan 30, 2012
Sexy races to watch pt.2