On the 100th day of Perry Christie’s swearing in as prime minister, I asked my readers to complete a questionnaire about the PLP’s first 100 days in office. Specifically, I used the promises the PLP’s Charter made of goals to be achieved during this period, and I asked readers to share their impression of how effective the Christie administration has been in fulfilling these promises.
Now that the 100th day since the opening of parliament has passed, too, I am sharing the results. The numbers require not only some analysis, which will follow, but also a brief explanation upfront.
On 7th May, 2012, the proportional distribution of voters was as follows: PLP – 48.7%, FNM – 42.1%, DNA – 8.4%. However, more FNM than PLP voters participated in this survey. For this reason, I have applied a curve to the results to correct this discrepancy, and gain a score more representative of the Bahamian electorate for a harmonised result that is statistically representative.
The distribution of voters across constituencies is also not perfect, with two FNM strongholds (Killarney and St. Anne’s), one PLP stronghold (Centreville) and one “swing” constituency (Elizabeth, carried by the PLP in 2012) being overrepresented, and six out of 38 constituencies without any respondents. However, the distribution is not as New Providence centred as I had feared, and the differences between New Providence, Grand Bahama and Family Island scores are negligible.
To convert the scores to letter grades, I have used the College of the Bahamas’ grading system, which is as follows:
- A = 90% to 100%
- A- = 85% to 89.9%
- B+ = 80% to 84.9%
- B = 75% to 79.9%
- B- = 70% to 74.9%
- C+ = 65% to 69.9%
- C = 60% to 64.9%
- C- = 55% to 59.9%
- D = 50% to 54.9%
- F = 0% to 49.9%
- PLP Promise: “Launch key elements of Project Safe Bahamas and Operation Cease Fire, including the reintroduction of Urban Renewal, to immediately reinvigorate the fight against crime and violence.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||62.1%||C|
- PLP Promise: “Prioritize a doubling of the nation’s investment in the education and training of Bahamians. From preschools all the way up to retraining for Bahamians already in the workforce, we need new investment and innovative reforms.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||34.3%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Create a Ministry for Grand Bahama, bringing focus to growing that island’s economy.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||59.5%||C-|
- PLP Promise: “Institute a mortgage relief plan in conjunction with private sector lenders to help struggling homeowners.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||30.9%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Set in motion the plan to secure the nation’s borders, with steps to hire new personnel, acquire new technology, and initiate new training programmes.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||37.5%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Reposition The Bahamas Development Bank, so it becomes again a key player in creating jobs and expanding small and medium-sized businesses.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||34.1%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Re-establish the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||53.3%||D|
- PLP Promise: “Introduce the Employees Pension Fund Protection Act to keep pension funds out of reach for business owners, and to make directors and officers personally liable for breaches.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||40.7%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Renew the nation’s commitment to National Health Insurance, and support the Public Hospitals Authority in the acquisition of much-needed new cancer-screening technology, ensuring that Bahamian women have access to state-of-the-art mammogram machines at both Princess Margaret in New Providence and Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||33.4%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Initiate a plan to lower the cost of electricity in The Bahamas.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||26.2%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Bring together representatives from all sectors to launch a 40th Anniversary of Independence National Congress to begin enactment of Vision 2030.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||42.3%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Provide details for a referendum on a National Lottery and gambling in The Bahamas.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||44.7%||F|
- PLP Promise: “Reduce the maximum level of stamp tax payable on real estate transactions from 12% to 10%.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||54.2%||D|
- PLP Promise: “Re-introduce a ceiling on the maximum level of real property taxes payable on a residence.”
|Statistically Adjusted Result||53.7%||D|
- Based on the above grades of the PLP’s promises for the first 100 days in office, the following is the overall evaluation of the Christie administration at this point in time:
|OVERALL GRADE||Score||Letter Grade|
|Statistically Adjusted Result||43.4%||F|
Several observers of Bahamian politics have pointed out that the aims the PLP set itself for its first 100 days in office were sufficiently vague to escape a measured evaluation. To a certain extent. For example, one promise was designed to signal to voters that the PLP would bring down the cost of electricity, when all they said was that they would initiate a plan to do so; of course this plan could come to fruition at an undetermined point in the future – or never. Or: the promised creation of two ministries; that was easily achieved, but nowhere does it demand that these ministries produce (short-term) results. However, Bahamian voters obviously understood the PLP’s message in the very way that the PLP hoped they would understand them during the campaign, and now expect results from all these plans and measures, not just bureaucratic beginnings.
Regarding some of its other promises, the PLP is trying to play semantics. An example for this is the campaign promise to double “the nation’s investment in the education and training of Bahamians.” This has been interpreted and reinterpreted, watered down and danced around so often that I no longer know what the current stance is, and I am not sure the PLP knows either. However, I do remember that one way of wriggling their way out of committing serious additional funds to education in the Bahamas was an attempt at playing on the word “investment,” and claiming that that does not necessarily have to entail money. Merriam-Webster, however, disagrees: “investment (noun) – the outlay of money usually for income or profit; capital outlay.”
While it should not come as a surprise to anyone that PLP voters rate their party’s performance higher than Bahamians who voted FNM or DNA, the gap between the camps is indeed cause for concern. Immediately after the election, I warned the PLP that “no matter how huge their majority feels in the House of Assembly, they must remember that the majority of voters did not vote for them, but that, as a democratic government, it is now their duty to govern for this majority, too.” Democracy is not synonymous with majority rule. Democracy does not mean that decisions should satisfy a parliamentary majority but disregard the interests of other citizens. It would appear though that Bahamians are currently viewing the Christie administration as serving the PLP’s clientele only.
Scores of FNM and DNA voters rated the government in the range from bad to worse; they are, without exception, in the F range. Yet the PLP voters’ evaluation of the Christie administration, too, should have the current administration concerned. Their overall grade for them is only a B-, not a single question scored an A among PLP voters, yet in two categories they gave their own party failing grades of C- and D respectively.
The few A- grades that the Christie government earned from its supporters, were in three categories: Urban Renewal, Ministry for Grand Bahama, and Ministry of Financial Services and Investments. The voters of the other parties also scored the government higher in these points. They happen to be some of the most obvious points. Nobody can deny that cabinet ministers have been appointed to these portfolios, and Urban Renewal has been making a lot of headlines. Yet while Bahamians remain divided over the effectiveness, or the positive impact, that these measures have. It is nonetheless interesting that this is the point where the current government earned its only overall passing grade.
The lowest grades that the Christie government earned from its own voters, were in two categories that the electorate probably measures very differently to the politician with an average declared net worth of $2.5 million. They are mortgage relief, where PLP voters rated the government C-, and the cost of electricity, where they rated the government D. While especially the mortgage relief plan has been talked about a lot – it even has attracted international attention – the fact remains that Bahamians have yet to feel any relief to the ever increasing cost of living in this country, while the vast majority of Bahamians experience stagnant incomes.
This reinforces some common notions about the PLP base’s demographics, just like the relatively – relatively! – high scores for the government’s real estate taxation plans among FNM voters confirm common notions about the FNM base’s demographics. Apart from Urban Renewal, only the last two questions score above 25% among FNM voters. Both, but especially the latter, are bound to be more beneficial to the richest of Bahamians, whereas the vast majority of Bahamians will never notice the ceiling on property taxes, neither directly nor as a trickle down effect.
Overall, the results of the survey are not surprising. For the most part, they highlight the expected: that PLP voters would not be very enthusiastic when they realise that there would be no gold rush after the Gold Rush; that FNM voters, many of whom essentially define themselves through their opposition to the PLP, would not allow the Christie government the benefit of the doubt; and that one hundred days in a democracy, but particularly in a place where things often move as slowly as they do in the Bahamas, are a very short time.
A closer look at the DNA voters’ responses allows for some interesting speculation though. Common wisdom prior to the 2012 general elections was that the DNA would hurt the FNM more than the PLP. After all, its leader was a disgruntled FNM, and many suspected that Branville McCartney’s personal ambition rather than real policy differences with his former party led him to start the DNA. However, it has also become apparent, especially after the election when former candidates are no longer in campaign mode and tend to speak more freely, that the DNA was never a coherent party whose members agreed on a wide range of key issues. In fact, McCartney’s campaign strategy already hinted at that. Wherever he suspected to know Bahamian popular opinion, he took the popular stance; wherever he was unsure about Bahamian popular opinion, he took the referendum way out.
So while the DNA’s leadership genesis may have drawn some FNM voters, its populist stance possibly attracted some PLP voters, too. At least the results indicate a slightly higher level of satisfaction (actually, a slightly lower level of dissatisfaction) with the PLP’s performance among DNA voters than among FNM voters. The results also indicate that DNA voters tend to rate those items disproportionately lower compared to FNM voters where the PLP voters also rated their party’s government below average.
By-Election and 2017
While the DNA keeps pledging to stick around for 2017, they have already announced that they would not contest the imminent by-election in North Abaco. On 7th May, FNM leader Hubert Ingraham beat the PLP’s Renardo Curry by “less than 400 votes” (as the PLP likes to point out) – or by a comfortable 9.2% lead (as the FNM could point out). The DNA’s candidate received 39 votes, less than 1%. Bahamians expect the by-election to be a close call, though a majority of 54% still expect the FNM to defend that seat.
In the survey, participants were also asked whom they would vote for now. The results do not show a dramatic shift, which is to be expected in a country that has been characterised by a two party system for so long that most eligible voters cannot remember another viable party. However, the subtle changes that emerge from the survey are interesting:
- The PLP loses votes. The average PLP voter rates the PLP’s performance as only a B-; this indicates a level of dissatisfaction and causes the party’s support to shrink.
- The DNA not only defends its position but gains votes. These gains are small, but measurable. They are, at this time, too small to win the party a seat in the House of Assembly, but seeing that the DNA did not win a single seat and many expected it to wither away in light of this shortcoming, this is encouraging for the DNA.
- However, the DNA’s gains are not the PLP’s losses. In fact, the DNA’s gains come from FNM voters – maybe FNM voters who were disappointed in their party losing the general elections, or maybe FNM voters disappointed with their party’s performance in the opposition.
- The FNM’s losses to the DNA are smaller than the FNM’s gains from the PLP, and significantly so. The FNM also gains votes from people who “abstained” – either by not going to the polls or by spoiling ballots – on 7th May. If elections were held again today, it would be much closer than it was a hundred days ago, and it looks like the FNM would just have the edge.