Who will win the next general election?
By Philip C. Galanis
(Author’s note: The general content of this column was presented by the author in an address to the Rotary Club of West Nassau at Graycliff Restaurant on Thursday, February 9, 2012.)
This week, as we rapidly approach the general election, we would like to Consider This...who will win the next general election?
Our comments are framed in the context of where we presently stand and our election forecasts will be amended before the general election, much like the frequently updated hurricane predictions we get each year.
For now, however, we believe that the elections are the PLP’s to lose. There are easily verifiable facts that support the premise that the PLP should win. They include:
1. The unsubstantiated claims by the FNM that, during its term in office, the PLP had its hands in the cookie jar. To date, not one iota of credible evidence has been presented by anyone to support that claim. A reasonable observer could therefore draw the conclusion that either there is no evidence to support this claim or that the accusations could affect other persons the government does not want to implicate. These assertions suggest an advantage for the PLP because it seems to imply that the leader of the FNM is desperately reverting to innuendos and speculation left over from the 2007 campaign that he knows he still cannot – or will not – substantiate.
2. The PLP is fielding impressive candidates. With few exceptions, the PLP candidates are untainted and scandal-free, so to paint the entire party with a scandalous brush no longer applies.
3. We should not lose sight of the fact that the FNM also has several persons who are not running again. Can it be that Hubert Ingraham believes that the FNM cannot withstand the scrutiny and standard of integrity to which he is holding the PLP? If there is a debate on scandals, there are some in the FNM who would be found wanting and we submit that Ingraham prefers not opening that Pandora’s box.
4. Ingraham’s autocratic and bellicose leadership style has grown tiresome. He is a one-man band, whose approach is: his way or the highway. Bahamians are tired of that leadership style, especially young Bahamians who are fast becoming the deciding factors in any general election.
5. The FNM has not introduced any major new projects since assuming office and has completed projects that were conceived, or started, by the PLP.
6. The rise of the national debt to a record $4.2 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion, or 40 percent, in five years. The consequences of this are enormous and far-reaching, with the burden of debt stretching generationally.
7. Crime is at an all-time high with murder records in four of the last five years, topped by 127 murders in 2011 and 14 so far for 2012.
8. According to the Department of Statistics November Labour Force and Household Income Survey, the country’s unemployment rate is 15.9 percent. New Providence’s unemployment rate of 15.1 percent and Grand Bahama’s 21.2 percent are abysmal. Even more disconcerting is that youth unemployment has increased to a staggering 34 percent.
9. Home foreclosures are at record levels. Even the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation has witnessed unprecedented foreclosures.
10. Thousands of Bahamians cannot afford to keep their electricity connected because they just don’t have the money to do so, sometimes having to choose feeding their families in the dark instead of going hungry with the lights on. And some families can’t afford either.
11. Special interest groups seem to be the chosen few who are benefiting since the Great Recession started in 2008. The vast majority of Bahamians have not been so fortunate. To paraphrase Dickens, these are the best of times for the few and the worst of times for the many.
12. There has been a record number of business closures during the last five years.
13. Individuals and businesses have tremendous difficulty in accessing urgently needed capital for start-up or expansion purposes.
14. The abominably executed roadworks have put hundreds of Bahamians out of business and many workers on the streets.
15. Too many foreigners have been the beneficiaries of the FNM government, at the cost of many unemployed Bahamians who are capable and willing to work. Foreigners have benefited from the enormous increase in the national debt which Bahamians will have to repay for generations to come.
16. Illegal immigration is out of control with the government bereft of any plans for its containment.
17. The Grand Bahama economy is comatose with no relief in sight for the neglected residents of that island.
18. The misery index has skyrocketed and the rapidly expanding numbers of impoverished Bahamians have lost any hope of maintaining their expected standard of living. The Bahamian middle-class is rapidly vanishing.
A record number of 154,391 voters registered as of February 3, 2012 compared to 150,684 in 2007. We predict that a record number of persons will vote in 2012. As we witnessed in 1967, 1992, 2002 and 2007, Bahamians have a history of voting governments out of office instead of voting for a party to become the government. Bahamians have registered in such large numbers because they are discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed and want the government to know it by sending a definitive message via their ballots.
The DNA factor
The DNA will mount an impressive challenge to the established parties and in some cases will be spoilers by determining the outcome for candidates who would not likely win unless there are three candidates.
If the DNA wins several seats, we could end up with a coalition government, which last occurred when there were 38 seats in Parliament.
Predictions for the elections
Based on a review of the candidates and the reconstituted constituencies, as of today, we believe that the PLP will win 13 seats, the FNM will win 13 seats, the DNA will win two seats, and 10 seats are toss ups.
Closing the deal
If the PLP is going to win, it must do several things:
1. This election must not be fought on the PLP’s 2002 – 2007 record. This is Ingraham’s game plan and the PLP must not allow him to frame the debate along these lines.
2. The PLP must contest this election by fighting on three premises:
a) The state of the Bahamian economy. The PLP should ask the voter: “Are you better off today than you were in May 2007?” We believe the honest reply will be a resounding no!
b) The PLP must clearly articulate its vision for the future. Voters have grown weary of hearing about the accomplishments of the past and want to hear about future plans for the nation and for the people. The PLP must make this a campaign about ideas and vision and not about leadership and personalities.
c) The PLP must showcase the impressive talent of its team and richness of its ideas. Above all, the PLP must convince the Bahamian people that they will not allow any single individual to dictate the course of policy formulation as the great debate regarding the development of a modern Bahamas continues.
As the election approaches, we will refine our predictions and be more definitive about those toss up seats.
•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: email@example.com
Feb 13, 2012