By-elections: OBA future on the line’
All eyes are on Paget East and Warwick North East this week as a double by-election on Thursday stands to deliver a verdict on the One Bermuda Alliance.
Political commentators Phil Perinchief, the former Attorney-General, and former National Liberal Party leader Charles Jeffers said the by-elections can be compared to the recent vote in Barbados, where the Barbados Labour Party won all 30 seats in a General Election last month.
Mr Jeffers said it would bode poorly for Bermuda if the island travels in the same direction as Barbados.
Both analysts deem it likely that OBA candidate Scott Pearman will hold Paget East after the retirement of Grant Gibbons, but the Progressive Labour Party could add to its 24-seat majority in Warwick North East, where newcomer Curtis Dickinson appears well served by a strong canvassing team.
Mr Jeffers told The Royal Gazette: “My concern is that our lack of a strong Opposition could really mislead the governing party, who might feel they have carte blanche to do whatever they wish. It would be interesting to see what percentage of swing voters there are. There are some who, if one party is in power, would vote the other way just to change things around.
“If the Opposition are diminished much more, it will be difficult for them to rebuild.”
Mr Jeffers added: “The position of Leader of the Opposition, Jeanne Atherden, could be in difficulty if the PLP took Warwick North East.”
Ms Atherden’s support for young contender Justin Mathias might also come into question, he added.
Mr Perinchief said a victory in Warwick would result in little more than bragging rights for the PLP.
“This win will not by one iota increase or enhance the ability of the PLP to successfully prosecute its agenda in the House of Assembly, or cause the Premier to feel burdened or threatened by his back bench,” Mr Perinchief said.
“For the OBA, as a political party, a loss in this constituency is but one more nail into the coffin fashioned for this comatose party which has been laying in state awaiting a proper burial since the last General Election.”
The BLP’s clean sweep in Barbados under Mia Mottley, the new Prime Minister, had risked creating “the first one-party state in the Commonwealth, or even the so-called democratic West”.
The May 24 elections there had effectively shown the electorate’s wishes to usher in “a one-party democratic state”.
Mr Perinchief added that Bermuda had electoral barriers to democracy in the form of “the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system working in conjunction with the safe-seat regime largely defined along historically prescribed racial lines”.
Mr Pearman was “guaranteed” Paget East, he said, as would Mr Mathias, had Ms Atherden been granted “the permission of the powers-that-are in that constituency”.
“Accordingly, the focus is on Mr Dickinson in the other contested constituency by-election, where the PLP should come away with a win.”
Mr Perinchief said the OBA’s chances had been scuppered when Ms Atherden, whom he described as a “politically inept” holdover from the United Bermuda Party “missed the chance to rebuild as best it could from the tattered election remains” around former MP Jeff Baron, former senate leader Nicholas Kempe who was ousted for Mr Mathias, and MP Sylvan Richards.
“What’s left of that party is old diehard UBA-ites currently carrying the media appearances, and political neophytes and yuppies, devoid of a political philosophy or history of social struggle, untested by, and deathly afraid of frontline, street-level, door-to-door politics, and no, or very little, Cabinet-level experience,” Mr Perinchief said.
“This is hardly an Opposition qualified to be considered a serious government in waiting — unless, of course, you have about 15 years to wait.”
Mr Perinchief predicted the rise of a new political party from elements in the PLP, the OBA and the general population.
“Bermuda will begin to follow the trajectory of political maturity that countries like Bahamas have embarked on years ahead of us,” he said.
He likened Ms Atherden or any successor to “a new captain of the Titanic” and called the OBA “politically spent”.
Mr Jeffers said he was reluctant to predict, but noted that Mr Dickinson could be hampered by his “very serious” demeanour, asking: “Can he get people out to vote?”
“The PLP has the momentum and the OBA has the need,” Mr Jeffers said. “The question is, can they turn that need into momentum?”
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