The first 100 days frame is famously the invention of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he first took office in 1933 promising a “New Deal” in response to the Great Depression. Since then, the frame has been used to evaluate the early days of new presidential administrations.
During the election campaign the PLP employed the frame detailing for voters what the party promised to accomplish during its first 100 days. The wisdom of utilizing such a frame will become clearer in the months ahead as many will use it in assessing the Christie administration’s first months in office.
But it is not that pledge that is the main thrust of today’s Front Porch. The first 100 days of a new government also concern the nature of political transitions. The remarkable thing about the transition of office from the FNM to the PLP is that it was unremarkable. After a hard fought election, power was transferred peacefully.
Hubert Ingraham conceded defeat. Perry Christie claimed victory and was sworn in the next day. Hubert Minnis is now Leader of the Opposition. There is a new Cabinet in place. What a wonderful democracy and example to the world!
And, no, this was not the most contentious general election we have ever had. There have been elections with more serious incidents of violence and greater invective. This was not 1962 or 1987 when the will of the people was likely thwarted by widespread irregularities and fraud.
Yes, there continues to be various corrupt practices including voting irregularities on election day and vote-buying. The question of campaign financing, especially from foreign sources, remains a deeply troubling element of our campaigns. Still, our democracy is flawed, not failed.
The usual suspects and some taken in by their hackneyed analysis were again proven wrong. Ninety percent of registered voters cast ballots. The Elizabeth by-election was not predictive of voter turnout in the general election. And the overwhelming number of voters supported one of the major parties.
The PLP’s pledge aside, the first 100 days after a change of government offers important clues about the future of a new government and of the opposition. The content of the Speech from the Throne and the debate on the Government’s legislative agenda will be an early test for the PLP and the FNM.
What are the long-term implications of Prime Minister Christie’s cabinet selections? For example, Mr. Christie has appointed Jerome Fitzgerald as Minister of Education. It takes experienced ministers time to grasp, much less master the bureaucratic behemoth that is the Ministry of Education, the largest ministry.
Just as Hubert Ingraham persuaded Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, an expert and innovative thinker in tourism, to serve as Minister of Tourism, might Mr. Christie have prevailed upon someone like Sean McWeeney to serve as Minister of Education? It was also curious that Mr. Christie chose as Speaker of the House of Assembly someone who has no experience in Parliament.
In addition to personnel choices, the immediate and intermediate fiscal and policy choices the newly incumbent administration makes will have longer-term consequences for its success. The assessment by the international credit agency Moody’s of the PLP’s home mortgage plan presents the new government with one of its first major policy conundrums.
There are not only the policies and pronouncements of a new government. There is also the tone set over matters like civil service reassignments, the awarding and cancelling of contracts, and other decisions which give voters first impressions of a new administration.
By example, the country wants quick action on various fronts. Punting critical decisions to commissions or committees will not sit well with a public anxious about crime, jobs and the economy.
It is not only the new government that is in transition. So too, the opposition. With Hubert Ingraham leaving frontline politics, the FNM is set to have a new generation of leaders take centre stage in the party and in Parliament. While unhappy with its loss the FNM is not in a defeatist mood
Having lost, the FNM is now in better position than the PLP to present a new face to younger voters, many who voted for the DNA, and others desirous of a new generation of political leaders.
Following May 7th there has been disingenuous commentary by a handful who queried whether the FNM can survive its loss at the polls. One such sanctimonious pontificator appeared on television offering pompous purple prose masquerading as informed commentary on the FNM’s survivability.
The beauty of a verifiable historical record is that it easily rebuts the self-serving historical revisionism by some. The movement and ideals which gave birth to the FNM not only survived, they continue to flourish.
The attempt to stab and perhaps kill Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield the night of the no-confidence vote against Sir Lynden Pindling in 1970 failed. The Free PLP went on to form one of the country’s two major parties surviving two decades in opposition before winning office in 1992. As some supporters of the FNM like to say, the party is used to getting a cut (expletive deleted).
The FNM and its leaders survived a vicious attack in 1970 at Lewis Yard in Grand Bahama where Sir Cecil and others were brutally attacked as police officers turned a blind eye. FNM leaders and supporters were denounced as traitors even on ZNS Radio.
There was mass victimization of FNMs including the particularly egregious case of Wellington Smith, a Turks Islander living in Inagua who worked at Morton Salt. Though not himself an active FNM supporter he was deported back to the Turks and Caicos because his wife supported the FNM. He had to leave his Bahamian wife and seven children in Inagua.
The Smith family and others were torn apart by this and other acts of victimization by successive Pindling administrations which victimized the FNM rank and file. Some of the bitterness lingers up to this day.
The party went through a disastrous split in 1977. Yet, the FNM survived. In due course it will return to office just as it rebound from a worse beating in 2002. Some likewise predicted the demise of the PLP which got a shellacking in 1992 and 1997, only to return to office in 2002 after which it lost power in 2007, and have now returned to Government.
Some commentators are still of the view that the natives can’t govern themselves, that voters would stay home in droves, and that “this” election – 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012 – would be “the year” of the independents or third parties. That they have been repeatedly proven wrong does not matter. Some prejudices will never give way to facts.
Other disingenuous commentators in a fit of magical thinking want to wish away the FNM because of where their sympathies and interests rest. It is a like a theology of the absurd in which some people’s syllabus of errors and dogmatic certitudes remain untouched by a certain quality of faith or reason.