Young Man’s View: All For One… One For All?

Wednesday 15th, October 2014 / 09:37 Published by

adrian-gibsonThings are heating up in the Free National Movement and soon members and party officers will feel the fire burning as the internal races and rhetoric, preceding the convention, intensifies before they select an executive team that’s likely to lead the party into the next general election.

I’m told that Thursday’s council meeting was one of the most well-attended in years and that the council decided to ratify the decision of the leader to hold a convention on November 21.

I’ve decided to once again don my monk’s garb and attempt to read the political tea leaves, making electoral projections relative to the political odds of the candidates likely to contest the three top positions at the FNM’s impending political pageant.

Noticeably, among the strong contenders are a few folks who could only realistically be seen as wannabes or also-ran candidates.

In recent months, the public rift and back-and-forth between FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis and deputy leader Loretta Butler-Turner has spawned a noxious political environment and given some the impression that the FNM was a divided political force, afflicted by internal party wrangling and public displays of bitterness and animosity.

While there are those who may view Dr Minnis’ sudden calling for a snap convention this week as shrewd, calculating and “cock suckerish” (to quote a senior council member), it appears that he played a game of high-stakes poker and thus far has won. His calling for an earlier convention was strategic and seemingly politically handicapped the deputy leader – and any other potential challenger – as their campaigns throughout the country would now be restricted by time and possibly an inability to raise funding in such a short period.

It is unfortunate that such a decision was made whilst the deputy leader was off the island, giving leave to people to claim that it was underhanded or unfairly done. Frankly though, this is politics and one cannot fault the doctor for being politically tactical or ensuring that he comes out the gate with a bang!

However, I am curious about the next FNM convention and why – according to sources – it will only be held in response to the Progressive Liberal Party’s convention and to settle concerns about the Democratic National Alliance, with a view to fusing both political entities under the FNM’s umbrella.

The FNM’s chairmanship race is setting up to be an interesting one. Reliable sources have told me that current chairman Darron Cash will not be seeking re-election, but instead will up the ante, hoping to be elected deputy leader of the party. In the race for chairman, the early contenders appear to be FNM senator Michael Pintard, current deputy chairman and former Garden Hills MP Brensil Rolle and former Speaker and North Eleuthera MP Alvin Smith. That said, I’m told that if Rolle nominates for the chairmanship, the former speaker would seek one of the deputy chairman posts as opposed to challenging his friend.

The outcome of the race for chairman – as with the other races – will be determined by long-held relationships. It is expected that Rolle may have the advantage here since he has served as a deputy chairman over the last two years and has had many opportunities to interact and build relationships with delegates. Voting will feature some 440-plus delegates, a list that comprises the 38 constituency associations (each of which has five eligible voting delegates), the Meritorious Council Members, the Executive Council, party officers and other senior members. Whilst voting will be done by secret ballots, sources tell me that constituencies and leading party figures have already divided themselves into blocs.

Indeed, the FNM needs a chairman who can articulate the views of the leadership, who is not afraid to go head-to-head with PLP chairman Bradley Roberts and a person who is eloquent, savvy and who has gravitas.

Pintard has a reasonably sound educational background and I appreciate his skills as a playwright and his accomplishments on the political front back in his College of The Bahamas days. However, I am not particularly impressed by his political acumen on the national stage.

Before his senatorial appointment, Pintard – much like the Klingons – had mastered the art of invisibility. Previously, he ran in 1997 against PLP leader Perry Christie and was sent packing. While Pintard did make the race for the Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador seat competitive during the 2012 general election, he took a spanking from now deputy prime minister Philip “Brave” Davis.

Pintard is extremely charismatic and has a reasonably good chance of winning the chairmanship. His ability to wax poetic gives him an edge over other challengers.

Whilst Rolle has a good chance of being elected chairman, Pintard could prove to be a formidable foe. Rolle – who is a down-to-earth chap – does not possess the oratorical skills of Pintard. He has become an important player in the FNM, gaining a reputation as a voice of moderation and as a so-called “grassroots fella” who is not pretentious and who “people identify with even more than most of us.” He also seems to understand political history and precedent and while he’s not the most erudite or silver-tongued wordsmith likely to challenge for this post, he’s purportedly in touch with street politics.

He would be difficult for folks to hamper with some of the trite arguments used to dismiss others – that is, that he’s an elitist or was born with a silver spoon, etc. Rolle and Pintard will be the top contenders for this post. We shall see who emerges.

As it relates to former speaker Smith, I imagine that he – according to all accounts – would not compete against Rolle for this post. However, he would win one of the deputy chairmanship races in a run off. Now retired from frontline politics, he has been a leader of government business in the House, has had a long tenure on the political frontlines and could potentially anchor a newly refocused or re-engineered FNM party.

The clash for deputy leader will be intense and will undoubtedly leave at least one candidate in diapers after the votes are counted. The face-off in this highly competitive race will likely see former senator and now deputy chairman Dr Duane Sands, current chairman Darron Cash, senator Carl Bethel, former senator Frederick McAlpine and Mrs Butler Turner (yes, I said that) having a showdown.

Cash will be politically cashed out if he contests this position. Quite honestly, he comes off as a monotonous snore who appears to have neither razzle nor dazzle. Cash appears to be a clever chap but he is politically out of his depth. Cash seemingly allows his personal feelings to be worn on his sleeve and that has created some high-profile dissent with the current leadership.

People would recall that he once sent an email claiming that he could not work with Dr Minnis, before seemingly a well-publicised about-face a short time later. Though he was chairman, he reportedly went against the party line during the gaming referendum.

Cash has been a reasonably fair party manager thus far and would likely be a necessary part of a future FNM team .. just not in the position he’s purportedly been inclined to seek.

After that cut-tail he got in the 2012 general elections, Carl Bethel will have to once again reach for a crying towel on conclusion of the race for the deputy leadership. He’s on the fast track to being politically body slammed. It is widely known that he has leadership ambitions and he has been said to have told several people that he will seek to become the FNM’s next deputy leader.

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ethel is fighting for his political survival and so I expect him to act as every desperate man does. I anticipate that the outcome of the deputy leadership race will puncture the ego of this cocky guy. If he loses, he may have to give up his senatorial seat – or at least his ranking in the senate – to his deputy, especially if Mrs Butler-Turner challenges for the leadership and the new deputy does not sit in the House.

Senator Bethel, who has become a nowhere man of Bahamian politics, will suffer an ego-busting defeat in this coming convention. Reminiscent of his loss at the last FNM convention in the chairmanship race, Bethel will again be forced to eat the sour grapes of defeat.

One hopes that the outcome of this convention will forever politically extinguish Bethel’s hopes of returning to frontline politics.

Frederick McAlpine is a likeable chap. He’s a gentleman and a long-time friend of my grandparents. That said, he will have a long and tough journey to the top of the heap on election night. However, if his run is to demonstrate to the party that he is willing to participate in the internal party politics and perhaps position himself for a nomination, ministerial post or some other cushy appointment, he would be quite successful in that regard. This run is more about positioning than anything else.

Dr Sands will likely give his challengers a black needle. He’s a political moderate and has the drive, the passion and the restraint to serve in this post. Whilst Dr Sands doesn’t stand out as the best comedian or the hippest fella on the block, he brings practicality, eloquent and thoughtful commentary and an understanding for the plight of Bahamians, as is espoused in his weekly statements in the press, his experiences gained working in the public healthcare system and the less fortunate persons who, I’ve discovered, he helps to take care of.

Sands would be the strongest contender for deputy leadership, especially if Mrs Butler-Turner vies for the leadership. If she doesn’t, the battle between Sands and Butler-Turner will be the biggest showdown during the convention and one that I imagine will set tongues wagging.

However, until she publicly states otherwise, Mrs Butler-Turner will be more widely spoken off in the context of her well-publicised leadership ambitions.

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n the leadership race, the odds are stacked against the MP for Long Island. She has very little time to campaign and people have come to the conclusion that there must be a divorce of the current leadership team.

If Mrs Butler-Turner wants to register her discontent with the fact that the convention was called in her absence and without her input, she could challenge to retain her current post. That would throw a monkey wrench into the entire exercise!

Indeed, she has distinguished herself as a firebrand and an in-your-face politician. She has political pedigree and has demonstrated a ferocious spirit in fighting this abysmal government. One can appreciate her progressive views and believe that her contribution is important in the FNM. She will be a tough challenger for Dr Minnis. There are those who say that Mrs Butler-Turner never yielded to Dr Minnis’ leadership and yet others who assert that she was told that she was not the doctor’s first choice and that she was unwelcome from day one.

Unfortunately, she has overreached on occasion and appears to lack discipline. Her challenge is a seeming lack of understanding of the art of nuance.

One of the major issues between Dr Minnis and Mrs Butler-Turner is that both parties feel disrespected by the other. This convention will finally settle the score.

Whilst I’ve heard that former deputy prime minister Brent Symonette could enter the leadership race, I am not convinced that he would make many waves at convention. He is a long-tenured FNM, but I doubt that he would be able to defeat Minnis.

The current FNM leader has the comparative advantage and will likely retain his position as leader.

Clearly, he has been grossly underestimated by many in his party and some had written him off because of the perception of him. He would likely admit that doesn’t have the gift of the gab and usually people who are speak well (some of whom are mere “air baggers”) are seen – in Bahamian politics – as being the most outstanding. For those folks who have misread him, his political development is on display and he is now being seen as a high stakes political poker player who outfoxed everyone around him. It appears that his biggest strength may be the fact that people underestimate him and, second to that, that he has an uncanny ability to persevere even in the face of the most brutal criticisms.

The doctor is a rising powerhouse within the FNM and his experience growing up and as a self-made man gives him a keen understanding of socio-economic conditions on both ends of the social spectrum. He grew up poor, earning his way and becoming a person of means.

Frankly, I believe that Mrs Butler-Turner is seen as a threat. She perhaps would have made the perfect deputy, however she clearly has ambitions to displace him as leader. Will she challenge for the leadership?

The FNM must resolve its issues and get its house in order.

It will be interesting to see what happens if former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham enters the fray. The game could totally be turned on its head. Whilst it doesn’t appear likely that he will, speculators see his trip to Mozambique to monitor elections there as a re-entry into public life and a prerequisite to his return to the helm of the FNM. One can never be too sure since the former PM has shown in the past that he could nominate on the convention floor, if need be.

We shall see …

Adrian Gibson

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