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Snap elections, integrity and credibility

The urge to go, Mr Editor, can be strong; compelling even. Pressure can mount, becoming, well, quite intense, practically unbearable. You know the deal, and thus it appears that there is but the one solution.

It can be like that with the body politic, too.

You touched upon prospects for a snap election last week. It has also been a talking point in any number of circles and for obvious reason. It wasn't that long ago that Sir John Swan as Premier and leader of the United Bermuda Party tried on an early election — and to great advantage. On second thought, mind you, 30 years ago is a long time ago, by any standard.

But that was then and this is now. There was a split in the Progressive Labour Party — much like there appears to be now — except then there were members who actually departed and who had formed a new and third party. It is not so clear (yet) whether that will happen this time around. But as RB (Reginald Burrows) has warned, it does look very much like history repeating itself.

Meanwhile, you can be sure the thought of an early election has crossed the minds of those in charge in the governing One Bermuda Alliance. You can bet that they have also been inundated with friendly advice to adopt the Nike (not Mike) position and “Just Do It”.

None will have forgotten either the favour that the former Premier, Paula Cox, provided the OBA when the PLP leader declined to call an early election, back when the OBA was in its infancy, struggling to find its footing, having been formed out of two previously warring camps of the UBP and now defunct Bermuda Democratic Alliance. The outcome might have been much different.

An early election does have its obvious political appeal.

Still, there is the question of how well an early election will go down with those who are not partisan supporters, if the decision is taken only for political advantage, and is seen to have been taken for just that reason, ie, political advantage, which of course it will be, no matter how well the spin doctors try to dress it up.

The OBA has a platform of promises still to meet, not the least of which was the big one: that is to turn around the economy, and more specifically to fix government finances and to create 2,000 new jobs (private sector, not public, I think). The best that can be said — and they do say it — is that the OBA is only in “mid-stride” but “on the road to recovery”.

Three years into their term and there are signs Bermuda may be turning the corner. Some are out front on what is turning out to be, understandably, a very wide turn. But that is not true for many others. Some are not even on the bend. They are still looking for a net increase in jobs. That, too, is the sobering reality.

Meanwhile, the OBA recently laid out in the Throne Speech what even it claimed is an ambitious agenda for the forthcoming parliamentary year.

Included in that speech was the introduction of absentee balloting, even if only for students who are studying abroad at “recognised educational institutions”: when really all that should matter is that persons are properly qualified and registered to vote, but that's another story. However, this proviso notwithstanding, the move is long overdue. It was a 2012 election promise, and the next election should not be held without it.

There was another promise, too, of which we have not heard much since the 2012 campaign — and that is the little matter of fixed-term elections.

Fixed-term elections pretty well rule out early elections, except of course in the case where the government of the day is defeated in the Legislature by a vote of no confidence. A full five-year term ends in December 2017.

The rationale behind fixed-term elections is to take the politics out of general elections and to eliminate the opportunity for the government of the day to make the call for no better reason than apparent political advantage and, to create, for lack of a better term, a level playing field for all participants — which brings me right back to where this week's column started.

The upside to a snap election could well spell victory, but it would also come at the expense of integrity and credibility. But whether those two principles are of much influence or importance in politics is another matter entirely.

It's been said before, Mr Editor, and it is worth remembering. There are really only two things that politicians understand: that is power and the loss of power, and the two very often determine what is ultimately said and done.

But PS: let's keep it merry; it's Christmas.

Is history repeating itself? Reginald Burrows has warned that it may well be, with the split in the Progressive Labour Party echoing similar divisions 30 years ago

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Published December 18, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 18, 2015 at 1:49 am)

Snap elections, integrity and credibility

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