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Use your vote and your voice

Taj Donville-Outerbridge is an award-winning Bermudian human rights activist, writer and student studying at King’s College London

As Bermuda faces another pivotal by-election, it’s time we confront an uncomfortable truth: merely casting our votes is not enough. We are on the brink of a crucial General Election, and yet many of us continue to approach voting with a passive loyalty that does nothing but uphold a faltering status quo.

The Progressive Labour Party holds a stifling majority with 30 out of 36 seats. Despite this overwhelming control, it has yet to convincingly demonstrate why it deserves such unchecked power. Its relentless pursuit of yet another seat reeks of unabashed greed or a desire by the party leadership to demonstrate their political prowess, rather than any genuine commitment to Bermudian welfare — a slap in the face to any notion of democratic balance and/or integrity.

Meanwhile, the One Bermuda Alliance wallows in ineffective opposition, offering little clarity about its collective visions or plans for our future. This leaves voters in a predicament: choosing between a domineering government that has lost touch with its base and an opposition too feeble to foster any real change.

The fire and passion once seen in Bermudian politics seem to have died down to mere embers. Remember the uproar against policies such as the OBA’s Pathways to Status or the contentious same-sex marriage debate? Where has that fervour gone? Are we so beaten down by political fatigue that we accept the lesser of two evils as the norm?

The existing PLP administration has strayed far from its roots, morphing into a party that mirrors those it once opposed. Policies it vehemently criticised, or would have morally and ideologically opposed in the past, when introduced by the United Bermuda Party, or by the OBA in more recent times, are now heralded as their own. This hypocrisy is not just ironic; it's a blatant betrayal of the electorate’s trust.

Enter Sir John Swan, the independent candidate whose entrance into the race for Smith’s North (Constituency 10) serves not just as a breath of fresh air, but as a canary in the coalmine. His candidacy is a stark indicator that Bermuda’s political landscape is teetering on the edge of collapse.

Sir John, while not the quintessential independent candidate many might hope for, represents a critical challenge to the entrenched status quo. His decision to run should be a wake-up call, prompting us to question the foundations of our political system and the viability of its future. His presence in this election is not just about offering an alternative; it’s a dire reminder that we must scrutinise the failings of our traditional parties and the entire democratic structure supporting them.

This election should not be just about choosing the least objectionable option. It’s a chance to scream from the rooftops that we demand better. It’s a moment to rally, to engage and to refuse the spoon-fed narratives handed down by power-hungry, self-serving politicians.

Supporting an independent candidate such as Sir John Swan sends a powerful message to the established parties: we are awake, alert and unamused by your political antics. It tells them that their time of comfortable majorities built on voter apathy is coming to an end.

However, let’s not kid ourselves — the influence of an independent can be easily muted by the overwhelming noise of a majority party. But isn’t it time we show that we are tired of the same old song and dance? Isn’t it time we demand accountability and transparency from those we elect to represent us?

Fellow Bermudians, our role in democracy extends far beyond the polling stations. We must educate ourselves on the real impacts of policies, engage in relentless public dialogue, and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire, ensuring they do not stray from their promises or our expectations.

As we approach this election, seen as a litmus test for what is to come, let us remind ourselves and our neighbours: voting is crucial, but it is not sufficient. Active, informed and continuous engagement are essential to forge a government that genuinely reflects and serves the interests of its people.

To close as I always do, here are some points of action to consider:

1, Be ruthlessly informed: Dive deep into the histories and platforms of all parties and candidates. Know their failures and hold them accountable

2, Challenge the norm: Engage in debates, attend rallies and challenge candidates publicly. Demand clear, actionable plans, not just vague promises

3, Expose the failures: Use every platform at your disposal to highlight the shortcomings and inconsistencies of present and prospective officials

4, Support bold alternatives: Rally behind independent candidates such as Sir John Swan, who dare to challenge the entrenched party dynamics that have so failed us

5, Be a bold alternative: If you have the time, energy, skill set, resources and passion for Bermuda, consider running as an independent in the General Election and use the platform, regardless of the outcome, to be a public voice of dissent

6, Keep up the pressure post-election: Winning an election is not the end of the fight; it is just the beginning. Stay vigilant and ensure that those in power deliver on their promises without compromise.

We must not just vote for change; we must be the relentless voice that demands and directs it. I will continue to do my part. Will you do yours?

• Taj Donville-Outerbridge is an award-winning Bermudian human rights activist, writer and student studying at Kings College London. He also has a decade of experience in Bermuda’s political system. He can be reached via Instagram @_king.taj_ and e-mail at tdonvilleouterbridge@yahoo.com

• Comments are closed on political content until after the by-election to stem the flow of purposefully inflammatory and litigious comments during the election cycle. Users who introduce extreme partisan comments into other news content will be banned