The Bahamas Weekly Facebook The Bahamas Weekly Twitter
Columns : The New Bahamian - Joseph Gaskins Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Predictions, Promises, Petrol and Protégés: Bringing Some Perspective to the 2012 Elections
By Joseph Gaskins
May 11, 2012 - 11:33:17 AM

Email this article
 Mobile friendly page

This is probably the point at which my good Anglican grandmother, now deceased, would probably be humming, “The Strife is O’er.” Admittedly, it’s a funeral hymn and I imagine some might assume I’m singing it for the Free National Movement. Honestly, I’m just glad the election is o’er because now the real work can start.

I wanted to begin this piece by addressing what I believed was the failure of the Bahamian pundit-class to predict the spanking the Free National Movement took this elections. I’m revising that position for a few reasons.

First, I can’t speak about the Bahamian pundit-class is if I’m some kind of rogue outsider anymore. I just hung up from a Jamaican radio show who contacted me to talk about the election. I am apparently a pundit, much to my own chagrin.

Second, when I sent into the twitter-verse my desire to talk about the inaccuracy of the punditry’s predictions, I was rebuffed. Noelle Nichols from the Tribune informed me that she predicted on ZNS the morning of the election that the FNM would either win big or lose big; other pundits whose political leanings are more obvious that Ms. Nichols’ likely predicted a big loss for the FNM as well. The argument is a non-starter and the point is unimportant in the grand scheme of things. What’s really interesting is the post-election analysis.

Aside from those who have positioned themselves as holding the key to the hearts and minds of the Bahamian people or those who find the capacity of those minds diminished and those hearts ungrateful, most have rushed to declare the victory of the Progressive Liberal Party a landslide and to play doctor for the now ailing FNM.

In real terms, I’m not sure if this election was the landslide it has been billed. Sure, it was a devastating blow to the former Prime Minister, Hubert Ingraham. You’d also be right in suggesting that a 29 seat majority in a 38 seat house is nothing to scoff at. However, according to Stephen Aranha from the College of the Bahamas School of Social Sciences, the PLP only won 48.7% of the vote—less than half of the popular vote. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) picked up 8.9% of the vote, leaving the FNM with 42.1% of the vote. Historically, the percentage between the two major parties is below the average 10.9% electoral spread of the last six elections. In fact, this election the FNM lost by less than in other election it had previously contended unsuccessfully.

Where would the 8.9% of the popular vote have gone if the DNA wasn’t a factor? Who are these DNA voters and why did they vote DNA? Did they find the DNA’s proposed policy appealing or were they disillusioned FNMs who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the PLP? There is still so much analysis to be conducted on what transpired on May 7th. It is clear, though, that a majority of voters, albeit a slim majority, are opposed to the PLP government.

Along with the sizable opposition, the PLP has won this election in a world completely different from the one in 2002, and even 2007. Virtual socialscapes and multifarious flows of information make it near impossible for government and media establishments to monopolize discourses. The PLP campaign seemed to reflect the reality of this brave new world (excuse the pun), but the question is whether or not their governance will follow suit. It would be wise for the government and the opposition to engage young thinkers who find the complexities of this new world the ordinary mechanics of everyday life.

  With 14 point checklists detailing the first 100 day promises of the PLP government circulating the web for Bahamians to print and track the government’s progress, transnational conversations facilitated by Twitter involving COB students, academics, journalists and voters of varying demographics (follow conversations at #Bahamas2012), and political satire eliciting a more involved response from the Bahamian voters than party platforms ( here and here), accountability, dialogue and (a productive) cynicism is defining this new era of Bahamian political consciousness.

For political parties, this means that a promise isn’t just an electoral poly anymore. If you don’t think people will remember what you’ve promised remember this—your manifesto is in an easily searchable, email-able, copy and paste ready document that I can carry on my phone, in my back pocket, everywhere I go. In the case of this new PLP government, a sizeable portion of the population will be watching with a critical eye.

I’ve turned my own critical eye to the question of oil. I’m still not certain Bahamians grasp the significance of this new development. The alleged scandal involving our now Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister that begun to brew prior May 7th is indeed cause for concern.

 “Consultancies” have a storied history in Bahamian politics. The PLP protested against the United Bahamian Party for their consultancy arrangements with corporations interested in establishing casinos in the Bahamas in the 1960’s. My hope is that history is not repeating itself.

I am uneasy about oil drilling, in general, and the close relationship the PLP has with Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) does not mitigate this unease. I am more inclined to think the Bahamian government should be pursuing alternative, natural or green energy sources, which are abundant in throughout the country. It didn’t help that upon their election BPC stocks shot up to new highs on the London Stock Exchange and investors seem confident that Bahamians will vote in favor of drilling in the promised referendum.

Consultancies, stock exchanges and referendums aside, what I fear most is that if we do approve oil drilling Bahamians will not truly benefit from it. Rumors of the Bahamian government taking a 7% oil minority and allowing a private company prospecting rights are disheartening when countries around the world “no longer allow the private ownership of oil.”

 The Bahamas needs overhauls in its infrastructure, tax regime, environmental regulations and even education if we are to withstand the new pressures oil and oil money will exert on the country. Furthermore, the government must consider nationalizing oil or at the very least demand a controlling interest.

Finally, I thought I should address the question of protégés, heirs and legacies in Bahamian politics. This is something that reared its undemocratic head toward the end of the campaign with assertions from both parties that their leader was the true heir to Sir. Lyden Osacr Pindling’s legacy.

I think the mythology that was constructed around Sir. Lyden Pindling post-independence is dangerous. Yes, Sir. Lyden Pindling was an integral part of the movement toward independence, but it did not start with him and if “Papa” is any indication, the project is obviously not completed.

The fight for the liberation of black Bahamians started long before the establishment of the PLP, most notably by ragged and destitute Bahamians on Bay St. wh ose only recourse was to smash store fronts in response to unequal treatment.

What kind of democracy do we have when we squabble over who is the "rightful heir" to Sir. Lyden Pindling's legacy or the "anointed leader" to continue "his work"? This is our work, and our politicians will do well to remember that they, in fact, work for us.

As far as I am concerned, it is time for Pindling's so called "protégés" to take a seat. The kind of messianic politics they subscribe to may have been useful to lead Bahamians "out of colonialism" but it is ultimately problematic. We don't need another Black Moses, or a Papa, what we need is leadership that is forward thinking, truly progressive and connected to the will of the people. We should all remain vigilant to ensure that’s what we’ve gotten this time around.

Joey Gaskins is a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He was born in Grand Bahama Island and is currently studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he has attained his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and has begun a Doctoral Degree in Sociology. Joey also writes for  the Nassau  Liberal  
www. nassauliberal. webs.com  and the Tribune . You can reach him at  j.gaskins@lse.ac.uk


Bookmark and Share

© Copyright 2012 by thebahamasweekly.com

Top of Page

Receive our Top Stories

Preview | Powered by CommandBlast

The New Bahamian - Joseph Gaskins
Latest Headlines
At All Costs: Stopping The "Global Gay Agenda"
Opportunity in the Challenge: Leading on the Referendum Could Mean Winning the Election
The Hair and Now: What #SupportThePuff Should’ve Taught Us
The Politics of Natural Disasters (And the Unnatural Disaster of Politics)
The Way Forward: The Political Value of a Bankrupt Tourism Policy