Apology, congratulations and caution
As those of you reading this can imagine, it is without a doubt one of the most difficult opinions I have written. I initiate it with an apology to the Bermudian people.
It is very evident that the One Bermuda Alliance failed to provide a viable alternative to the questionable governance that we have endured over the past three years. This fact and the clear message suggest that it be addressed in another forum.
That failure is compounded by my own personal loss of a seat held by the OBA since it began in 2011. I sincerely thank the people of Constituency 9 who opened their doors and to those who placed their vote of confidence in me. However, in the end, I was 30 votes short.
I extend sincere congratulations to the Progressive Labour Party for its overwhelming electoral victory. For the sake of us all, I hope that they will be true to their words of bipartisanship, as stated in the Premier's victory speech. We all have a vested interest in your success at advancing the interests of the Bermudian people.
In the meantime, it is helpful for us to place the victory and the OBA's spectacular defeat in context. It should be pointed out that despite rumblings and wishful thinking to the contrary, the independents and the Free Democratic Movement received less than 6 per cent of the total votes, while the PLP and OBA together garnered more than 94 per cent of the votes. Of those, 62 per cent went to the PLP and 32 per cent to the OBA.
It is also worth noting that there was a notable 61 per cent increase in the number of people who chose not to vote as compared with 2017. That number stands at a whopping 44 per cent and represents 20,548 voters of a total electorate of 46,311, excluding the three uncontested seats.
Clearly, all is not well in our democracy.
At risk of boring readers with numbers, there is an important and undeniable story being told, if you want to see it. In spite of the PLP's impressive dominance on the surface, the vast majority of eligible Bermudian voters — more than 65 per cent — did not vote for them.
In a broader context, the domination at the polls in Bermuda seems to be consistent with notable trends in other jurisdictions as well. In Grenada in 1999, one party took all the seats and repeated it again in 2013 and 2018.
On the other hand, in Bahamas in 2012, their Progressive Liberal Party won 29 of 38 seats. The Free National Movement completely reversed that victory in 2017, taking 35 of 39 seats. There was a landslide in Barbados in 2018. In St Kitts & Nevis in June, a coalition party took nine of 11 seats and just last month in Jamaica, their Jamaica Labour Party won 49 seats to the opposition's 16.
To sum up my view on this election here in Bermuda from the numbers, lack of voter participation and my experience on the campaign trail, the collective wisdom of voters is saying this:
The PLP should not be complacent and overconfident in its victory. As overwhelming as this election victory appears, it has been given with enormous reservation.
However, it was also done with a crystal-clear mandate without political opposition. It appears that the people have said: “The government is yours to deal with. You are now required to perform the heavy lifting required from the enormous challenges created by the PLP for 17 of the past 22 years.”
Be careful what you wish for.
Therefore, I offer this caution first and foremost as a Bermudian. This mandate was not handed to the PLP to carry on the divisive, deflective and racial politics of the past. You should not continue to pit Bermudians against each other racially, socioeconomically or otherwise.
This victory is not intended for you to continue to weaken the institutions of our democracy for political gain — ie, by attacking the judiciary, the free press, civil servants and Parliament itself.
You have the opportunity to rectify past wrongs and to avoid corrupt practices that will ultimately spell your doom and ours if they continue.
Also, we do not want for you to trade the illusion of short-term gain for very real long-term pain by the established pattern of borrowing and wasting. This will only increase Bermudians paying more and higher taxes and our dependency on more borrowing — resulting in a fast track to a Bermuda we no longer recognise.
Your mandate is to lead us through this extremely difficult period and to improve the quality of our lives so that we can leave a better country for our children.
The ball is now in your court.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)