Predictions, Promises, Petrol and Protégés: Bringing Some Perspective to the 2012 Elections
By Joseph Gaskins
May 11, 2012 - 11:33:17 AM
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
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
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.
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), 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
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
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
only recourse was to smash store fronts in response to unequal treatment.
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
and the Tribune
. You can reach him at
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