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Low Voter Turnout Shows Lack of Faith In Government

When a government spends a reported $1 million in taxpayer money on an exercise that included the passage of brand new legislation to unjustifiably tamper with the Constitutional Referendum Act, as well as consistent public statements about the national importance and implications of a vote at the polls – and it cannot get voters to come out to the polls, it is a clear demonstration that the public at large does not trust the word of the government of the day or the system of the poll that the government is presenting – and therefore did not see the need to go to the polls.

What the day’s relatively low voter turnout shows is that the Bahamian people clearly believe that the government had a horse in the race and that horse was the “yes vote”, and therefore they do not trust the government or its poll to make a difference one way or the other on the issue of legalising webshop gaming.

The turnout is indicative of what is called low government efficacy – which essentially means the people do not believe in their government and therefore are not significantly moved by their government to take a particular course of action.

Citizens in a democracy generally trust their system of government – which is why in The Bahamas as one example, voter turnout for general elections is so high. It is because Bahamians trust that their vote will have an impact one way or the other. They believe that when they vote, their vote will count and if the majority of votes are for a Party, that Party will become the new government. There is no Prime Minister running on with nonsense ahead of the general election vote about “even if the majority of you vote for the other Party, we still won’t leave office.”

When a Prime Minister makes that kind of statement – which is just like the kind of statements the Prime Minister has made in the weeks leading up to this illegal opinion poll – what he is telling citizens is that he could not care less about the Constitution, the Law or their will. He is telling them the system is a fraud, but they can still go stand on a line and vote if they choose to.

And hence, it is when voters believe their voice at the ballot box is useless that they stay home in large numbers. And since the poll is being presented by the government, if the people believe their voice will be useless, it is because they believe their government sees their voice as inconsequential, and it has already made its mind up about what it wants to do regardless of what the voters say.

While the Prime Minister and officers of the governing Party, toward the end of this process, began making illogical statements about the politicizing of this poll by others – the government was somewhat right about that aspect of the poll in this respect:

The relatively low turnout is a defeat for the government, because it means the government failed to convince the Bahamian people of several key things: that the government has no horse in the race, that the government is not indebted to the numbers men and that the government will honor the voice of the people.

It is a defeat for the government because it failed to engender in Bahamians the trust Bahamians should have in their government – that it will uphold the rule of law and abide by the Supreme Law of the land which is the Constitution.

It is a defeat for the government because it failed to demonstrate to Bahamians that it respected their will and would in no way attempt to go against it.

Since the Prime Minister repeatedly told the Bahamian people “I don’t care about your voice”, the Bahamian people in turn have by and large said “then I don’t care about your poll either.”

So the proper analysis of today’s turnout is not that Bahamians just don’t care – it is that Bahamians just don’t trust their government at all, and believe their government has lied to them about both the poll it has put before them, and how it will handle the poll once all the votes are counted.

Sharon Turner

Posted in Politics

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