May 07, 2012
"A game is like a mirror that allows you to look at yourself." -- Robert Kiyosaki
We have been talking about today, Election Day 2012, for some time now as what can best be described as the perpetual campaign. Many Bahamians are so exhausted with politics and campaigning that a few days ago a woman in the food store exclaimed, "I'm so tired of politics, I just want this to be over." Others, however, long for and enjoy this democratic exercise and will be sad to see the campaign end.
This election is perhaps the most important one since the general election of 1972, because it will truly mark the beginning of the post-Pindling era in Bahamian politics. Hubert Ingraham has announced that this is his last campaign and his departure from the political landscape will certainly be hastened if he loses today's tussle. On the other hand, although he has made no specific pronouncements about his political future, should Perry Christie succumb in battle today, his exit from the political stage will also likely be accelerated, much as that of the late Sir Lynden Pindling was hastened after his defeat in the general election of 1997. Therefore, on this special day, we would like to Consider This...what have been the Election 2012 game changers? There are several that are noteworthy.
The length of the campaign
This has been a long campaign, which in some respects really didn't end after the last election in 2007. It picked up momentum with the Elizabeth by-election; and really got into full gear months before the bell was rung three weeks ago. This most recent thrust began in 2011 with town meetings organized by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to publically discuss important issues impacting the country. The FNM, however, did not use this approach.
Then a new phenomenon developed: the opening of constituency offices which were really large rallies in one constituency after another, held by the three major combatants and widely broadcast on both television and radio. This prolonged perpetual campaign has afforded the voters the opportunity and the access to be fully briefed on the issues affecting them. This new approach will be seen to be a significant game changer.
Messages and messengers
It is obvious that Ingraham believes that he is the only person who can authoritatively articulate the Free National Movement's (FNM) position. The FNM team has been virtually invisible, relegated on the platform to attack speeches with little substance, while the campaign has been a one-man band with Ingraham starring on every occasion. He has been the band leader, the cheerleader, as well as the entire drum and horn sections of the FNM parade. The FNM leader was magnified, while simultaneously his team was minimized. This has been extremely evident especially in their TV, radio and newspaper ads. It has been all about Ingraham, with very little emphasis on the FNM team, born out by repeated FNM claims that a team is nothing without a strong (read maximum) leader and Ingraham's own boasts about being a "one man band".
And Ingraham's pronouncements have often been punctuated with vitriolic invectives launched at the PLP's hands in the cookie jar -- claims he has never really substantiated perhaps because there is no substantial corroborative confirmation of such assertions. Furthermore, Bahamians are weary of hearing "that's my Papa". The superlative example of the cult of personality of the FNM's leader is characterized in his theme song: "You're simply the best, better than all the rest."
Conversely, both the PLP and the DNA have engaged not only their leaders to deliver the message, but have also effectively used a variety of their teams of candidates to convey their party's message. Therefore, the message and the messengers will be a game changer in today's contest.
The DNA factor
The DNA will also be a game changer in the elections. In a very short time, the DNA has organized a complete team to contest every constituency, a feat that has never before been accomplished by any third party in Bahamian history. While it is inconceivable that the DNA will win enough seats to form the government, if any at all, it is expected that they will mount an impressive showing at the polls, so much so that they will likely be spoilers in several key constituencies. In some races, a vote for the DNA will be tantamount to a vote for the FNM and could usher into Parliament candidates who are unable to stumble across the finish line on their own steam. Some candidates will probably be successful because the votes will be split in a way that will change -- and in some ways distort -- the game.
Because of the neglect of Grand Bahama by the FNM over the past five years, for the first time in a long time, the FNM will not be able to claim that Grand Bahama is FNM country. It is quite likely that the PLP will win a record number of seats on that island. The FNM's inattentiveness on that island will likely be a game changer.
The exchanges between the prime minister and Dame Marguerite Pindling have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many who believe that this prime minister's unwarranted assault is both distasteful and inappropriate and will cause some Bahamians to punish the FNM for its leader's deplorable attack on Dame Marguerite. These exchanges were precipitated by the FNM leader's use at a rally of a video clip of Sir Lynden. This, coupled with a more open and wider use of the ideas and images of Sir Lynden by the PLP, could see the influence of Sir Lynden being a possible game changer -- in different ways -- for both parties.
Prospecting for oil in The Bahamas
The FNM has accused the PLP leader and deputy leader of engaging in a conflict of interest by acting in their professional capacities as consultants to a foreign company that is engaged in oil exploration in The Bahamas. The extent to which voters believe that those accused have exonerated themselves in this debate will influence some voters and could be a game changer, although an objective observer will likely conclude that the FNM's accusations are without merit and do not rise to the level of either corruption or influence peddling.
The influence of money
No one should underestimate the role that money and the awarding of government largess will play in the general election. We have witnessed record contracts being awarded at the eleventh hour and last minute offers of employment by the government on the eve of elections that will be funded from the Public Treasury. In such an anemic economic environment, the government is hoping that these contracts and jobs will convert their recipients to grateful supporters of the FNM. But Bahamians are too intelligent and discerning to permit this to influence their votes and, as they enter the voting booths, they will ask why the government waited nearly five years to develop such windfalls that have conveniently come about on the eve of the elections. It is difficult to determine how much of a game changer such last minute acts of desperation will be for the voter on Election Day.
Sir Lynden's influence on the Bahamian political landscape has spanned six decades, from the time that he first joined the PLP in 1953 to today's general election. In the final analysis, one of his erstwhile sons will be the victor; the other will become the vanquished. This will, in all likelihood, be the last campaign for both of the primary combatants -- Sir Lynden's protégés -- Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie. What will follow today's general election will be a new dawn for The Bahamas, ushering in a new cadre of political leaders who have not grown up in Sir Lynden's shadow.
Both of Sir Lynden's immediate successors have enhanced the Bahamian polity and have deepened our democracy. It is nevertheless ironic that while today is the beginning of the end for both of these stalwarts, it will also be a new beginning for a cast of characters to whom the baton will be passed. In a very real sense, the general election of 2012 will change the game not only for these two political giants, but also for the country and for our future.
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.
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