Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This 2012 general election, you should vote... so that whatever historic result is announced that night (or in the days after), you can say, “I helped do that”

Let's just vote

It’s time for Bahamians to make their decision on the next government of The Bahamas

By Brent Dean
Guardian Associate Editor

When I left St. Anne’s School in 2007 after voting in the St. Anne’s constituency election, I knew how I would vote at the next general election, whenever it would be called, if a certain scenario persisted.  The scenario I thought might continue has, and I will do in a few weeks what I thought I would do five years ago when I walked out of the voting booth.

For some voters the main issue or main issues are clearly defined. The rhetoric of campaigns cannot sway these voters away from fundamental ideals or an overwhelming concern.  So for some of us, the pre-election jockeying has not been as interesting as it has been to others.  We simply want to vote and see what the final result will be.

This is a landmark election for Bahamians.  We could make a man prime minster for 20 years; restore another man who is nearly 70 to office; or vote for a third party and make it a “permanent” part of our political process.  Of course, there is also the option that because there are three parties running in each constituency there might be no majority winner.

Though some play coy and suggest deciding on who to vote for is a complicated exercise, the choices are quite defined.  And barring a miraculous, new grandiose promise we all would have to think over, little else is likely to emerge that will move a large bloc of voters.  So rather than watching another constituency office opening, or seeing another TV ad or hearing one more wild accusation of corruption or malfeasance, it would be great if we could just hurry up and vote.

Those clear choices

This will be the largest voters’ register in Bahamian history.  There are already about 170,000 registered voters.  If it takes the full two months for an election to be called, who knows, there may be 180,000 people eligible to vote on Election Day.

Our choices are the Free National Movement (FNM) led by Hubert Ingraham; the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) led by Perry Christie; and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) led by Branville McCartney.

For those who want to vote for a leader, you have seen Ingraham govern for 15 years and Christie for five years.  There is enough of a body of work there on each side for you to know what these men would do if given another chance to lead.  Few leaders change in the twilight of their careers.  Don’t vote for a leader assuming that he will be different than he was over the many years you observed him in public office.

If you think the country has done well under Ingraham’s rule and you like his policies and style, he’s your man.  If you think Christie was a much better executive during his five years in office than Ingraham ever was when he was PM, then go gold.

Evaluating McCartney, however, takes a little more effort.  He has not been a member of Parliament for five years.  He has not been a party leader for one year.  For those who choose him over the others I suspect the feeling exists that 20 years of Ingraham-Christie rule has been inadequate.  A vote for McCartney, therefore, is hopeful, rebellious and exploratory.

While a vote for Bran may be all those things, a wasted vote it is not.  There are no wasted votes in elections.  Each voter has a right to cast a ballot for the best option available to that voter, and in doing so the people collectively choose who leads, who follows and who will have to try again.  The objective of elections should not be just to be on the side of a winner, but rather for each of us to contribute our best opinions to selecting the best people to represent us as a governing side and as an opposition.

Now while some vote for leaders, others vote for candidates.  Here it is necessary to determine the person best able to advance the interests of the community at the national and local levels.  While there are only three people “seeking” the post of prime minister (I discount the marginal parties and their leaders from this calculation), in each constituency there will be three or more candidates.  The numerous independents and marginal parties offering at the election create a host of options for voters.

The unregistered and the non-voter

With all these options out there to vote for, there are still some people who are unregistered.  There are also some people who are registered who do not intend to vote.  Now, there are some people who do not vote for religious reasons.  Let’s exclude them from our discussion.

Of the others who are not casting ballots, there are individuals out there who are intellectually lazy.  Rather than spending the time considering the issues, or the records of the candidates or parties, or examining the policy positions of the various factions, this group just complains.

They say this leader is not good enough; that party is not good enough; nothing will change if I vote.  There are people in countries such as Cuba, China, North Korea and Zimbabwe who only dream of free, fair and consistent elections.  Lazy voters, those who won’t take time to make a decision as to who to vote for, do not realize the significance of the opportunity they have.

A little effort, a little maturity, taking a little time to get off the social network gossiping, could easily lead to a voting conclusion.  You don’t have to love the option to participate.  It is fine to pick the best of the bunch, as a person or group on the ballot will lead your country and make decisions to impact your life and those of the people you love.

Election night

When it is all said and done history will be made at our next poll.  One of our senior statesmen may be retired, or a young man and his new party may become historic figures.  For now, Christie, Ingraham and McCartney are moving around with the swagger of stud lions.  On election night, there is almost no scenario that would make all three of them happy.  One or two will likely be devastated.  One or two may not come out in public for some time.

This is a good thing.  Democracy works when the powerful need and fear regular people.  You will decide their fates.  They are almost finished promising and pleading.  What is to come is up to you.

With all power comes responsibility.  This election, you should vote so that whatever historic result is announced that night (or in the days after), you can say, “I helped do that”.

We have a beautiful country that has some problems at this time in its history.  That beautiful country needs you to help set it on a new course.

Mar 26, 2012