By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLITICAL analyst Dr Ian Strachan believes the country may experience its lowest voter turnout in history for the upcoming general election due to lack of faith in the current political system and “weak” alternatives to the current administration.
Dr Strachan, a columnist and professor of English at the University of the Bahamas, made the prediction during his guest appearance on a weekend radio talk show.
On the show, local and international politics were discussed including the fallout from the US presidential election which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton despite the latter winning the popular vote in what had been called the lowest voter turnout since 1996.
Dr Strachan was asked on Saturday on 96.9 FM’s “Eye Opener” if he saw the same occurring for the Bahamas once the election is called.
“I don’t want to draw too many conclusions about what’s happening in international affairs simply because there’s a lot of context to get in there and it’s cyclical,” he said. “But I think in our own country it’s clear that this is a historic moment in as much as I believe we’re about to witness the lowest turnout for a general election in our history.
He described it as a “crisis of representation”.
“I think that at this stage in our national development the Bahamian public reaches a point where they don’t actually see a clear distinction between opposition and government in terms of their ethics, in terms of their policy positions and in terms of their practice.
“And as a consequence, they are turning their backs on the electoral process. I think it’s clear (and) there may be some people out there who don’t accept this, but it’s clear that the government is corrupt.
“But there is no real faith in a political alternative on the landscape. And I think that’s why people aren’t animated to go and register to vote and this is why many, many, many will not vote. Now I know that once they declare the election date, declare even before that when the registers are closed, more people will go forward. But they will not be able to catch up and it will certainly never exceed what happened five years ago.”
In the May, 2012, general election, the Progressive Liberal Party won 29 of the 38 seats in Parliament to the Free National Movement’s nine though figures released by the parliamentary registration office showed the PLP received 75,806 votes while the FNM secured 65,518 votes - a disproportionately small difference when judged against seats won.
The Democratic National Alliance, despite not securing any seats in Parliament, received 13,186 votes.
Last month, The Tribune reported that nearly 57,000 people had registered to vote, a much lower figure compared to this same period before the 2012 general election.
Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall publicly stated that his office was troubled by low voter registration numbers to date as the figure represents 34 per cent of estimated eligible voters as of November 4.
He also admitted he was unable to pinpoint the reasoning behind the drop in numbers but that his office was working to help as many people as possible through the process, hoping that the effort could aid registration numbers.
A closer look at the department’s records which were published recently revealed that 77.2 per cent (43,864) of eligible voters in New Providence have registered; 7,707 (13.6 per cent) in Grand Bahama and 5,225 (9.2 per cent) in the remaining Family Islands.
The 2012 voter registry consisted of 172,000 voters countrywide, 134,000 of whom had registered by November, 2011.
Dr Strachan stressed that the country is experiencing “a moment - and the question is, how do we understand the moment we’re in?”
“And what are the opportunities that the moment presents to us? And how we take advantage of and actually grow in this moment? Because I think this is a political crisis moment and as I said, I think the crisis is about credibility, the lack of credibility of both the sitting government and the lack of credibility in the opposition.”
The university lecturer said there is a high level of discontent for “establishment politics”.
“We live in a capitalist society and the kind of democracy that we have is the Westminster system is one which structurally does not support third parties, fourth parties or fifth parties. It’s a ‘first past the post’ system and it’s a two-party system.
“In addition to that, we have a moment we have where we have a really, really, really weak opposition and where the people just don’t have any confidence. The job of the opposition is not just to say ‘oh that’s a bad idea’, ‘that won’t work’, or ‘you failed’. The job of the opposition is also to articulate on some level for the general public an alternative - and that’s where they seem to be failing.
“And so people are agreed that the PLP, well maybe not everybody has agreed, I am satisfied that they are quite corrupt. But I’m not satisfied that the Free National Movement currently offers an alternative and I certainly am not satisfied the DNA offers an alternative and so I haven’t registered to vote.
“I probably will register to vote but I don’t know who I’ll be voting for and I think a lot of people, tens of thousands of Bahamians, are in my position,” he added.