30-6 resounds loudly. What next?
The result is in, the electorate has spoken and, perhaps with a 54 per cent turnout for a General Election, the unspoken speaks equally as loud.
The incumbent government gets 60 per cent of the votes cast, which represented a victory with 33 per cent of the eligible vote. Aside from the damnable ability of a premier to call a snap election — an act not unfamiliar to Bermuda and in fact used by Sir John Swan in 1985 to decimate the Progressive Labour Party.
Frankly, that's a side issue, the low turnout and a victory largely coming from the base of the PLP is indeed proof that the ruling party has a permanence that no other political entity can claim at this point.
The result also nailed voter apathy to the cross for the 2020 election. Given the apathy, the result should not be celebrated as a victory when there was a ghost of an opponent in the opposite corner.
The resounding realisation for the country should be that there is no opponent in the opposite corner and perhaps the first group that needs to understand this are the six standing in that corner calling themselves the Opposition.
While we survey the new political dynamics, how much better now is the government party by coming from a 25-11 majority to 30-6? Does that make the ruling party more effective? Is the overall population now better represented?
This new outcome, as evidenced by the electoral results, has revealed that the Free Democratic Movement got more votes in the West End than did the official Opposition. The FDM achieved this despite not gaining any seats or, at polling 5.37 per cent of the overall vote, representing a serious threat by making an imprint on the entire electorate.
Nevertheless, this fledgeling party likely will emerge from this election energised by the possibility that it might have planted the seed for becoming a future or “unofficial” opposition, thus displacing the OBA.
The big question for the FDM is whether it will develop into a political movement that has gravity and directional pull, or whether it simply formats to become another party as the alternative?
Naturally, attention will be placed on Craig Cannonier, the leader of the OBA. There will be questions like, should he resign after such a catastrophic loss? Should another leader emerge and who might that be?
To be clear in this writer's opinion, Mr Cannonier was no more responsible as a leader for the demise of the OBA as were the leaders of coal-driven industries when coal-powered engines met their fate when electricity became driven by oil.
The challenge for him and the OBA is to recognise their present stature as symbols of redundancy — the country has moved on and the political void to keep the Government in check is unfulfilled. More importantly for the OBA, it needs is to appreciate what the country needs going forward and whether it can be part of the next wave.
This moment in the sociopolitical evolution of Bermuda has only one parallel, the 1960s, which saw monumental change. Back then there were items such as voters' right, desegregation and the adoption of responsible government.
What else we can take away from October 1 is not to spend time marvelling at the shrewdness of the Premier or criticising him for calling the election when he did, but instead seeing this episode as a prompter to indicate that the voters have no rights in deciding when they go to the polls. That right under our system belongs to the Premier. So if that's a tool in the Premier's war chest, why not use it?
As a word to those who seek reform, perhaps that's where a future movement begins, by arguing for fixed-term elections. By adopting to the model of fixed term gives everyone a date to sort out their political affairs and a right to have a period when they can mobilise themselves if ever anyone decides to stand. Fixed election dates also eliminate the need for a Whip because it gives the Government four or five years as a mandate of not facing the possibility to fall because it fails to deliver a Bill.
This is a time when a government and the country could make major progressive change where needed. There can be no excuse when you have the numbers of seats in the Lower House to achieve it. Within our Constitution we have entrenched laws and specially entrenched laws. However, with 30-6 advantage, a parliament can change even entrenched laws, which require for example 75 per cent of the House vote.
Almost any change that is beneficial and adds to the rights of the people is possible when there is a majority such as is the case now for the Bermuda Parliament. We should not hear things such as “Well, this is the system” or “We follow the Westminster model”. Not when there is a majority like we now have, which has the constitutional power to change the system or how it applies because there are the numbers to do it — all that is required is the idea and the will.
This is the perfect time for an ideological or pressure group or political think-tank enlightened and informed with the types of democratic principles to evolve Bermuda's politics to a level of civility that could be exemplary. This is the time when there is the call for everyone to stand up to cause the changes that bring political rights to all the voters, to become a government of the people and not just of a privileged group.
The electorate needs to have its own inalienable rights defined. The next step in electoral evolution is not as before in the 1960s — the vote. It is now the inherent rights that should come with being a voter.