The voice of the people
By Philip C. Galanis
“The voice of the people is the voice of God.” – Sir Lynden Pindling
What a difference a day makes. Monday, May 7, 2012 will be recorded in Bahamian history as a day when the Bahamian people spoke loudly and unequivocally, although their behavior was anything but. In fact, when Bahamians went to the polls, they quietly exercised their constitutionally guaranteed democratic right, emphatically asserting their displeasure with the Free National Movement (FNM) government. The outcome of the election was a resounding rejection of the leadership of Hubert Ingraham and his government’s management of the country from 2007 to 2012. This week, we would like to Consider This...what really happened on Election Day, 2012 and what lessons, if any, are to be learned about governance and the will of the people?
The results of the elections, as confirmed by the parliamentary registrar, indicate that the majority of the nearly 156,000 persons who cast their votes — a turnout of 91 percent of the registered voters — rejected Ingraham’s belligerent behavior that bordered on tyranny, representing a leadership style that was not to be tolerated and had to be terminated.
Nearly 76,000, or 49 percent, of the voters supported the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and another 13,422, or nine percent, supported the fledgling Democratic National Alliance (DNA), making a combined total of nearly 58 percent of the voters who rejected the Free National Movement (FNM). Of the 38 seats that were contested, the PLP won 29 seats; the FNM won nine seats with 65,651 votes; and the DNA did not win any.
The professional pollsters predicted that the election results would be close and no one publically forecasted the resounding landslide. There were two seats where the victor won with a razor-slim margin of less than 25 votes, six seats where the winner edged out by less than 100 votes, and 11 seats where the winner won by less than 200 votes.
The FNM won only three of the 23 seats in New Providence, both seats in Abaco, two of the five seats in Grand Bahama, and two of the eight seats in the other Family Islands. Only four of Ingraham’s 17 Cabinet ministers survived the contest, with notable losses by veteran politicians Tommy Turnquest, Zhivargo Laing, Desmond Bannister, Charles Maynard and Carl Bethel.
The most difficult call in the election was the effect that the DNA would have on the outcome, but its presence was impactful. In fact, there were several seats where, but for the presence of the DNA, the PLP would have likely taken the seats that the FNM wound up winning. This was most evident in Montagu and Central Grand Bahama where the combined votes of the PLP and the DNA outnumbered those cast for the FNM. This suggestion is supported by the hypothesis that the DNA votes were in fact anti-FNM votes.
There are at least four lessons that can be learned from the election results. First, we are a two-party system and, once again, these elections confirmed that the presence of a third party in the body politic is largely irrelevant and inconsequential as regards its ability to form a government, although its existence affected the election outcome.
The second lesson was that when Bahamians have lost faith in a political party, they will unceremoniously and decisively vote them out. We saw this in 1992, 2002, 2007 and again in 2012.
The third lesson is that Bahamians fully comprehend the power of their votes and that the social contract between politicians and the people has a five-year life span, sometimes less as was the case in the Elizabeth by-election, but certainly not longer than five years. Ingraham has now joined Perry Christie in being booted out of office after just one term. Bahamians have proven that they will not tolerate arrogance, negligence, scandals, despotism or corruption.
The fourth lesson is that Grand Bahama is no longer FNM country, precipitated by the government’s gross neglect of the pain and suffering of the residents of that island over the last five years. For the first time in decades, the PLP has won the majority of seats on Grand Bahama, proving once again that if the social contract is unfulfilled, there will be consequences.
It was amazing and disappointing to note the reaction of both the press and the vanquished. In a Tribune editorial of Tuesday, May 8, the day after the general election, the editor of that tabloid noted: “Bahamians went to the polls yesterday and showed the depth of their ingratitude to a man who had dedicated 35 selfless years to their service.”
What drivel, what arrogance, what utter rubbish. The editor, more than many, should appreciate that the mandate that is given to any politician and any government is for five years, and to reject them for whatever reason is the voters’ constitutional right. We invite the editor to join us in the 21st century and recognize that that kind of patronizing plantation posturing offends the inalienable right and civic obligation to tell any leader — PLP, FNM, DNA or otherwise — that we have had enough of you, your policies and bullying tactics and that we invite you to leave and leave now.
We also observed Ingraham’s ungracious reaction to his thorough trouncing by the Bahamian people. In an interview with the press days after being completely rejected, Ingraham “hinted” that bribery was involved in the PLP’s win on Monday. How can he make such a claim with a straight face? What did the former prime minister think he was doing when he embarked upon a massive contract signing marathon after calling the elections; or when he offered temporary jobs to voters in order to win their support at the polls; or when he approved last-minute citizenship for countless applicants who had been awaiting such approval for years; or when he increased public servants’ salaries on the eve of elections and extended other such political patronage that he doled out days before the elections?
Bribery comes in many forms, shapes and sizes and is fully recognizable even when incognito, camouflaged as a contract, a job, citizenship or otherwise. If Ingraham would seriously reflect on this matter, perhaps he might appreciate that the Bahamian people told him and his ministers on May 7 that they were tired of him, and his bully tactics, his belligerent behavior, his one-man band approach to governance, his Pied Piper complex, his arrogance and that of some of his colleagues. As loudly as Bahamians spoke on Monday, you would have expected him to get the message that just maybe, “he is simply not the best”.
And so the torch has been passed once again and Christie has been given a second chance to rectify some of the missteps of his last term. We are confident that he is aware that there is a very thin line between love and hate, that the electorate is impatient, and that there is a very high expectation that his new government will lead the country to greater heights in the days ahead. Christie has first-hand knowledge that hard earned political currency, which often takes many years to amass, will be quickly spent if those expectations are not satisfied within a reasonable period of time. Most importantly, Christie, like the rest of the new government, has clearly heard the voice of the people; we can but hope they are acutely aware that it is also the voice of God.
• 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
May 14, 2012