During The Bahamas 2012 General Elections you could not help but observe much that is wrong in our society.
It quickly became apparent that although we are a democratic society, there is not always equal participation by all citizens in making the decisions that affect our lives.
We are a relatively young country and I guess it is to be expected that we would have to continue to evolve and strive toward the democratic ideal.
I believe that there are several changes that we could make that would strengthen our democracy and lead to a better Bahamas.
1. Freedom of Information Legislation – This has been promised by several governments in the past, hopefully we will have it soon. Freedom of Information gives citizens the Right-To-Know what their government is going on their behalf. It promotes openness and accountability. We desperately need robust laws in this area if we are to avoid the widespread corruption that has plagued many third world countries.
2. Campaign Finance Reform – Every election cycle millions of dollars are spent to convince (some say Buy) Bahamians to Vote for political parties. The million dollar question that nobody seems to be asking is where is the money coming from? And what do the contributors get in return? Interestingly both major political parties have called for Campaign Finance Reform… while in opposition!
3. Debate Between Candidates – In this day and age, in a country as advanced as The Bahamas, there is no excuse for candidates not to debate each other. We have been challenged with mediocre/lackluster representation for years because candidates are not qualified or could careless about fulfilling their role as representative of the people. We need to hear from the candidates and judge one against the other before giving our support.
4. Independent Boundaries Commission – Every 5 years, prior to general elections, the boundaries commission reviews the boundaries and supposedly recommend new ones based on population shift (i think). But what actually happens is that the governing party attempts to set the boundaries in such a way that the majority of voters are favorable to them. It doesn’t always work, but it shouldn’t even be allowed. It is so obviously undemocratic.
5. A Set Election Date – The Prime Minister is the only man who knows the date of the next general elections, because he can call it whenever he pleases. What purpose does this mystery around the exact election date serve? The only purpose I can think of is it gives the governing party a slight advantage over the opposing party. Is this good for the party or the people? Why not have elections on the same day every 5 years or announce the date before hand? No trickery, no strategy, just give
both all parties a level playing field and let The Bahamian people judge at the polls.
6. Max Term Limits – I support Max term limits for parliamentarians and The Prime Minister. It’s obvious that our leaders become less effective and more out of touch with the people the longer they are in office. Lets have a system where you server your country then go back to your regular life. I propose 3 terms max for parliamentarians and 2 terms max for Prime Minister. Consecutive or non-consecutive.
7. Constitution Education – I believe one of the weaknesses of our country is that the average Bahamian does not know the constitution, the structure or the role that government plays. We need to dedicate a whole class to teach the basics to students in primary schools and then go more in-depth in High School. This is the only way to ensure more participation in Government.
Can you think of any other changes that need to be made to strengthen our Democracy?