Better in the Bahamas?: A Preview of the Upcoming election
You can see the glow of Miami from the island of Bimini. There’s about fifty miles between the two, and since both have a 200 miles territorial waters, the Bahamas is one of only three countries, which shares a border with the continental United States. That is why anyone here would notice that there’s a general election next week.
The Bahamas, plus the neighboring Turks and Caicos, make up the Lucayan Archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Its 700-plus islands and cays range from uninhabited rocks to largish cities packed with resorts. With 60% of the economy being derived from tourism, most people have heard of the place and why the election should be considered important, although it’s not.
The Bahamas is a small country, with less than 400 thousand people, most of whom are jam packed on the little island of New Providence, and with an annual salary of an MP is $28 thousand per year, most members of parliament have day jobs…and are not adverse to the occasional gift or other under the table recompense.
For example, in the election before last, the government fell because a celebrity named Anna Nicole Smith exchanged sexual favors with the Minister of Immigration for a residency visa for her and her kids. The scandal was all over the newspapers and TV, but the resulting election was not. Why should it? There’s no war going on in our neighbor to the southeast, and the media barely mentioned the elections in Canada and Mexico.
But Bahamian politics isn’t boring at all, in fact its kind of fun….
There are three main political parties, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), Free National Movement (FNM) and Democratic National Alliance (DNA), the first two of which have governed the nation since independence in 1973. Last time out, in 2012, the election was rather close, but the DNA siphoned enough votes from the governing FNM to let the PLP to nearly wipe it off the map. A humiliated Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham did something unheard of. He resigned as leader of the party and was replaced by a gynecologist named Hubert Minnis.
I say “unheard of” because when Prime Minister Perry Christie was turfed out over the Anna Nicole thing, he stayed on, which is why he got his old job back.
Christie is rather popular, and opened the campaign with Trumpesque bravado, proclaiming “even God couldn’t stop him.” This got all the clerics, who have lots of influence screaming “blasphemy!”. Then there were the usual allegations of corruption, incompetence and the like, and it’s gotten rather nasty.
Part of the reason that Christie feels that he has the wind at his back, is that the PLP has been in chaos since late last year. First there was a coup in December, where Minnis was kicked out of his job as Leader of the Opposition by a majority of the nine remaining MPs, replacing him with Loretta Butler-Turner, who was his deputy.
Minnis got his revenge. Butler-Turner was stripped of both her nomination for her seat, as were the other rebels, and the formal leadership of the party. This is not helping matters for the Minnis campaign, which has also had to fend off allegations of corruption.
How the international scandal of the Fyre Festival disaster is as yet unknown, but that is not the worst of it.
There have been allegations that someone is planning voter fraud, so three international organizations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Organization of American States (OAS), plus the United States of America, are sending observers to try to keep things honest, and it’s a good thing too, as early voting is turning out to be a chaotic disaster.
It should be lots of fun.