I am not surprised at all that the Free National Movement (FNM) has been soundly defeated by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in the general election.
The FNM was simply destroyed at the polls by the PLP. The new official opposition party was only able to win nine seats to the Progressive Liberal Party’s 29.
The Bahamian people have sent a clear message to the outgoing governing party. They want the country to go in a new direction.
This is the first general election that Hubert Ingraham has lost. Even his contest in North Abaco with the PLP’s Renardo Curry was a nail-biter.
For a while there, I thought that the former prime minister had lost his seat.
Even more alarming for the FNM are the losses suffered by Zhivargo Laing in Fort Charlotte, Tommy Turnquest in Mount Moriah, Carl Bethel in Sea Breeze, Dion Foulkes in Yamacraw, Kenyatta Gibson in Southern Shores, Heather Hunt in Marathon, Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe in West Grand Bahama and Bimini, Kwasi Thompson in Pineridge, Desmond Bannister in North Andros and the Berry Islands and Darron Cash in Carmichael.
The fact that Turnquest would lose his Mount Moriah seat to a newcomer is further proof that he is by no means a political heavyweight.
This is the second election loss that he has suffered in 10 years.
He first lost his seat to another newcomer (the PLP’s Keod Smith) in 2002.
With all due respect to Turnquest, his latest loss is evidence that he is not prime minister material.
In order to be prime minister, you must first and foremost be able to win your seat on a consistent basis.
You cannot win in one election and then lose in another. As a political heavyweight, you must be able to decimate your opponent.
Turnquest has shown me that he is unable to do this. When you look at individuals like Perry Christie, Dr. Bernard Nottage, Glenys Hanna-Martin, Shane Gibson and Melanie Griffin, they always win their races by comfortable margins. Conversely, FNM incumbents who are touted as becoming the next leaders of the party seem to have great difficulty in holding on to their seats.
What’s more, the slate of candidates that Ingraham had assembled was not as impressive as the PLP’s slate of candidates.
For example, Ingraham ran the unknown Winsome Miller in Golden Gates against a political juggernaut, Shane Gibson. Who is Winsome Miller?
Who is Karen Butler? Who is Caron Shepherd? Nobody knows these people. I believe that the FNM has lost its mojo.
It has lost its greatness. This is not the same party which I had supported in the 1980s and 1990s.
Too many of the original FNMs who had made the party great have been sidelined.
The FNM has been gutted out. The time has now come for an introspection by the party.
Why has the party lost its appeal to the majority of Bahamian voters?
Now that Ingraham has announced that he will be retiring from frontline politics, the official opposition party must now choose a new leader. Ingraham has lost his Delivery Boy magic.
The FNM can no longer hang on to the former prime minister’s coat tail in order to win an election.
Unfortunately, those days are gone. The FNM is now officially in the post-Ingraham era.
The opposition party must now move on if it hopes to remain a political force in Bahamian politics.
Perhaps the party should now court Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney.
McCartney would make a great addition to the party. I think he has great leadership skills.
Perhaps the party should offer him a senate seat and make him deputy leader of the FNM. Dr. Hubert Minnis (Killarney) should be given the leadership post.
I think that both men could restore the FNM to its former glory.
Former FNM parliamentarians Turnquest, Bethel, Charles Maynard and Foulkes should all resign from frontline politics.
The Bahamian people have rejected them in more than one general election.
Their pathetic performance in the recent election has proven to me that they cannot lead the opposition party to victory.
They all need to step aside and let individuals like Howard Johnson (Central and South Eleuthera), Dr. Minnis and Loretta Butler-Turner (Long Island) take over the reins of the party.
The FNM must now prove that it can win a general election without Ingraham.
In each general election that the FNM has won, Ingraham was at the helm of the political organization.
There is a perception that the FNM cannot win without Ingraham. Clearly this has to change. Ingraham has hung up his helmet for good.
He was responsible for leading the opposition party to three general election victories in 1992, 1997 and in 2007.
Those were the glory days of the FNM.
In 2002, the FNM was also routed by Christie and his so-called new PLP.
Interestingly, both Turnquest and Foulkes were the leaders of the then governing party.
Not only did the FNM lose badly that year, but Turnquest and Foulkes lost their seats (Mount Moriah and Blue Hills).
Again, this is evidence that both men do not appeal to the Bahamian electorate.
The FNM party is in dire need of a rebirth. The party needs a complete overhaul. The FNM needs a new leader who is appealing to the grassroots and to the middle-class.
As it stands right now, too many grassroot Bahamians believe that the new opposition party only caters to white rich Bahamians and special interest groups.
The FNM needs to disabuse the Bahamian people of this unfortunate perception.
In summation, the past several years have shown me that Ingraham has lost the ability to win elections.
For example, the FNM lost the 2010 Elizabeth by-election to the PLP’s Ryan Pinder. That loss was a telltale sign that the former governing party had worn out its welcome with the Bahamian people.
It seems as if when the FNM wins elections, it wins by narrow margins; but when the PLP wins, it wins by landslide margins.
Clearly there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to rebuild the FNM.
The opposition party should use the next few years in order to revamp itself if it wants to be a contender in the 2017 general election.