NASSAU, The Bahamas, Tuesday December 20, 2016 – Elections bells are tolling in the distance even as political infighting in the Opposition Free National Movement (FNM) worsens by the day.
A battle-ready Prime Minister Perry Christie served notice he’s ready to ring to election, strongly hinting it’s high on the cards once the New Year turns.
“It’s not long now when you will be called upon to exercise your democratic right to vote in general elections,” he teased during a recent stop in Acklins, the Nassau Guardian reported.
Christie urged Bahamians to sign up to cast their ballots in the upcoming poll as he rallied his Progressive Labour Party (PLP) troops.
“Coming into the New Year, things will go fast and furious, very quickly. And so, there is every reason why you should put behind you, registration. Get that done and prepare to exercise your right.”
However, the latest reports from electoral authorities on voter registration signal that the two main political parties will have to do much more to convince Bahamians to go and vote.
Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall has disclosed that just under 72,000 Bahamians have registered to vote, representing just about 40 per cent of the eligible voters. In the May 7, 2012 general election, more than 172,000 people were registered to vote.
A concerned PLP said it would mount an aggressive voter registration drive.
The election call comes at the height of turmoil in the FNM that erupted after seven sitting Members of Parliament forced the removal of Dr Hubert Minnis as Leader of the Opposition.
Minnis and the new Opposition Leader Loretta Butler-Turner have locked horns since then, with the FNM revoking Butler-Turner’s appointment as the party’s candidate for Long Island.
In the latest twist, the Long Island Association has issued a strong letter to the party warning that it had lost its patience with Dr Minnis, accusing him of sowing seeds of “distrust and division”.
The group insisted it would not renege on its support for Butler-Turner.
“We need and want a leader like Loretta Butler-Turner who is a real leader who cares about Long Island and is prepared to work for and fight for us,” they said.
However, FNM chairman Sidney Collie maintained that decision stands, paving the way for a showdown.
Collie said the party was not concerned about Butler-Turner’s move, saying she was free to contest the seat, “either as an independent or under some other banner”.
He said that would not affect the decision of the FNM going forward.