“What Political Strategy can be implemented to defeat the PLP and the FNM in the next general election?”
This was the question recently posted on the wall of political activists and worker’s party leader Rodney Moncur. A very interesting question indeed.
My response was simply, it is too late in the game to implement any strategy that will defeat both parties. Going further I stated that no other party can hope to show up and win the GE in one term. They will have to show a consistent effort for several elections. At least two decades worth in my opinion.
To the current crop of third-party hopeful this may seem quite pessimistic. But I genuinely believe that is what it will take. I am basing these assumption on;
1. My belief that The Bahamian electorate is apathetic in the extreme
2. Bahamians are at the core FNM or PLP
3. The history of 3rd Party performances in general elections to date
All 3rd parties that I’ve been aware of in my voting years share several admirable characteristics; they are formed by passionate, patriotic and somewhat idealistic people. They recognize the imperfection of our current two-party system and attempt to offer Bahamians an alternative.
Unfortunately having passion and being patriotic is not enough. Hell, even having good ideas is not enough! Why? Because at the end of the day people vote with their emotions rather than their intellect. And emotionally, Bahamians are either PLP or FNM.
Despite this everything is possible… isn’t it? I’ve given it some thought and believe if a 3rd party follow the steps below they have a better chance of winning.
Create a long-term plan for victory
Articulate a long-term plan for victory to The Bahamian public with clear milestones leading up to a general election win. This will let people know that your party is serious and committed for the long haul. People will not take any party serious that shows up and expects to win in one term, especially a party of newcomers.
Set realistic goals over this period of time;
- Say for the 1st election as a party you expect to run 3 – 5 candidates and capture at least 20% of the vote in each constituency
- 2nd election expect to run between 5 – 10 candidates and win at least 3 – 5 seats.
- 3rd election expect to run 10 – 20 candidates and win at least 50% of seats contested.
- 4th election run 20 – 40 candidates and win the general election or become official opposition.
I think it’s also important to show consistency over this period, running the same candidates at least twice, or having the same candidates involved in the campaign process. I know people want change NOW but i think this approach is more realistic and have a better chance of working.
Identify your target demographic and target constituencies
I said earlier that most Bahamians are either PLP or FNM and while that is true, there is a growing number of persons who are increasingly dissatisfied with both parties. These people vote based on the issues or some personal criteria, not just because they have always voted for a particular party.
In 1992, they were tired of a corrupt PLP government and wanted change, in 2002 they were turned off by an increasingly autocratic Hubert Ingraham, In 2007 they said no to a 2nd term by Perry Christy amongst a number of scandals and apparent lack of leadership. These are the people who will be the first to support a new party and a new vision for the country. Swing Voters!
What are some of the characteristics of the swing voter? I believe they may be college educated, under 40 years old, and middle class. These are just my assumptions that will have to be verified by a proper study. But assuming I’m right, The 3rd party just has to identify the constituencies with the most voters in this demographic and target those seats.
Personally I think most 3rd parties have made the mistake of trying to run too many candidates, thus spreading their resources too thin. Looking at the voting results from 1992 – 2007, the majority of the 3rd party candidates received less than 3% of the vote! Identify your top 3- 5 ideal constituencies and focus all resources on capturing them.
Establish a presence in the constituency
What is the biggest complaint of most constituents about their representative? They never see them. Its standard operating procedure for PLP and FNM candidates to ignore their constituency for most of the term until the year prior to election time.
The 3 party candidate does not have this luxury. In fact, the 4 years prior to official campaign season is when the 3 party candidate needs to be most active in my opinion.
This is the time to establish a presence in the people’s minds before election fever takes hold. Not by rhetoric alone, but by taking action! Being active in the community with projects and initiatives that show the people what type of representative you can be. So when election time comes around and you ask them for their vote you have a body of work to bolster your claim as the best candidate.
This is what it will realistically take for a 3rd Party to win a general election in my opinion. The dilemma is that the problems we face today seem to call for a more immediate change. Perhaps the Bahamian people are fed up enough to make a wholesale change in one term despite what history tells us. There is always a first time right?
What yall think?