With the resignation of Andre Rollins (MP Fort Charlotte) from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which follows on the footsteps of the resignation of Greg Moss (MP Marco City) from the same, the governing party has lost its supermajority in the House of Assembly. Considering that the party only received 48.7% of the popular vote in the last election, that may be a democratic improvement in the composition of Parliament, but it does constitute one fundamental challenge: the PLP MPs can no longer pass Constitutional Amendment Bills without the support of opposition or independent members. Let us remember that four of them are currently “stuck in committee” in the House.
One way out of this dilemma for the PLP would be to replace the non-voting Speaker Kendal Major (MP Garden Hills) with an independent or opposition MP as Speaker of the House. This would, given the current count, restore the PLP’s supermajority. However, this may only be a temporary solution, for many Bahamians have long suspected – and these suspicions are growing daily – that Renward Wells (MP Bamboo Town) is pondering a move similar to Moss and Rollins. If he resigned, too, the PLP’s supermajority would be history regardless.
If the Prime Minister is serious about gender equality, and serious about constructing his legacy as the man who brought about constitutional reform to this effect, now may be the time to make this constitutional reform effort truly non-partisan. This would require him and the rest of the PLP to engage in a genuine conversation with the opposition; this would require them to take seriously the flaws which have been pointed out in the existing draft bills. This could potentially make the bills – and thus his legacy – stronger. This would also require him to apologise.
Perry Christie is, after all, the man who led the charge against constitutional reform for gender equality in 2002. The bills now are not new, they are but the reheated, toted lunch in a Styrofoam container of what he campaigned against back then. Right now, his legacy is that of the man who blocked gender equality by sabotaging a referendum. He needs to swallow his pride, admit his mistake, apologise to all those who were alienated by his actions in 2002. Then, and only then, could he pave the way for reconciling divided parties on this issue, and he could build a legacy of a man not ashamed to admit to and correct his mistakes.
However, I suspect that the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bills have always been less about gender equality and more about legacy building. I fear that stubborn pride may blind the Prime Minister to see the above as a viable option. This leaves one more scenario for gender equality during his current term: forget about it. This might leave his pride intact, and in his imagination it may not even negatively affect his legacy, which at this time primarily exists in his imagination anyway. This will, however, continue to treat women as second-class citizens, signalling to the rest of the world that the Bahamas is not yet ready to join it in the twenty-first century.