Consequences of Losing the Supermajority

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.


Christie gets an F

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%


  1. 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.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 86.1% A-
FNM Voters 34.4% F
DNA Voters 40.0% F
Measured Average 54.1% D
Statistically Adjusted Result 62.1% C
  1. 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.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 61.2% C
FNM Voters 7.8% F
DNA Voters 11.7% F
Measured Average 26.6% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 34.3% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Create a Ministry for Grand Bahama, bringing focus to growing that island’s economy.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 88.9% A-
FNM Voters 26.0% F
DNA Voters 38.3% F
Measured Average 50.2% D
Statistically Adjusted Result 59.5% C-
  1. PLP Promise: “Institute a mortgage relief plan in conjunction with private sector lenders to help struggling homeowners.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 57.1% C-
FNM Voters 7.0% F
DNA Voters 6.0% F
Measured Average 26.3% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 30.9% F
  1. 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.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 64.1% C
FNM Voters 9.0% F
DNA Voters 20.0% F
Measured Average 29.9% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 37.5% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Reposition The Bahamas Development Bank, so it becomes again a key player in creating jobs and expanding small and medium-sized businesses.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 61.9% C
FNM Voters 6.3% F
DNA Voters 10.0% F
Measured Average 27.3% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 34.1% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Re-establish the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 87.0% A-
FNM Voters 19.7% F
DNA Voters 35.0% F
Measured Average 45.2% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 53.3% D
  1. 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.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 69.6% C+
FNM Voters 10.5% F
DNA Voters 20.0% F
Measured Average 32.9% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 40.7% F
  1. 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.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 60.7% C
FNM Voters 4.4% F
DNA Voters 20.0% F
Measured Average 26.0% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 33.4% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Initiate a plan to lower the cost of electricity in The Bahamas.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 51.5% D
FNM Voters 2.5% F
DNA Voters 3.3% F
Measured Average 19.6% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 26.2% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Bring together representatives from all sectors to launch a 40th Anniversary of Independence National Congress to begin enactment of Vision 2030.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 72.7% B-
FNM Voters 7.6% F
DNA Voters 26.0% F
Measured Average 33.3% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 42.3% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Provide details for a referendum on a National Lottery and gambling in The Bahamas.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 72.6% B-
FNM Voters 17.0% F
DNA Voters 23.3% F
Measured Average 37.6% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 44.7% F
  1. PLP Promise: “Reduce the maximum level of stamp tax payable on real estate transactions from 12% to 10%.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 74.4% B-
FNM Voters 30.5% F
DNA Voters 40.0% F
Measured Average 45.9% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 54.2% D
  1. PLP Promise: “Re-introduce a ceiling on the maximum level of real property taxes payable on a residence.”
Score Letter Grade
PLP Voters 77.1% B
FNM Voters 25.4% F
DNA Voters 24.0% F
Measured Average 35.5% F
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
PLP Voters 70.4% B-
FNM Voters 14.9% F
DNA Voters 22.7 F
Measured Average 35.5% F
Statistically Adjusted Result 43.4% F

Unsatisfactory Scores

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.