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A look to PLP’s future as Christie’s exit anticipated

After remaining out of public view since suffering a blistering defeat at the polls last Wednesday, former Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to announce his retirement from politics at a meeting of the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) National General Council (NGC) tonight.

The PLP won four of the 39 seats in the House of Assembly.

Christie was unable to hold on to Centreville, the constituency he represented for four decades.

He lost to the Free National Movement’s (FNM) Reece Chipman by four votes.

When contacted, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts could not confirm Christie’s retirement plans, but said the former prime minister is expected to speak at the NGC meeting tonight.

Former Central and South Eleuthera MP Damian Gomez, who was also contacted for comment, said he expects Christie to retire this evening and resign as leader of the PLP.

“We will have a convention in due course; the sooner that, that happens, the better for the party, because there are a number of things that have to be addressed that are critical to regaining public confidence,” Gomez said yesterday.

Reflecting on the PLP’s defeat, Gomez said, had PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis led the party into the election, the PLP would have won, given Davis’ affinity with the party’s base and his capabilities.

“I think we need to go with someone who has experience and who can garner the confidence of rank and file members first,” Gomez said.

“We are in a rebuilding exercise.

“I don’t think bringing a new fight in will assist us in what we have to do immediately.

“We can choose a new leader annually at any time we choose to choose a person.

“But, for right now we have to revote.

“… I support continuity and someone who I actually think, had the reins been turned over earlier, the result would have been a lot different than it was.”

Collision course

Former PLP MP Philip Galanis expressed a similar view.

Galanis said the extent of the loss would have been minimized under a Davis leadership, but acknowledged that the PLP was on a “collision course”.

“I think for quite a while now I have been saying that Mr. Christie was a drag on the PLP, and if he took us into an election, given his high unfavorability ratings, we would likely lose the election,” he said.

“I didn’t expect that it would be to the extent that we did.

“I didn’t expect that you would have a wholesale rejection of not only him, but also his Cabinet.

“But, I did feel for some time now we were really headed on a collision course and it was not going to end well for us.”

Asked whether Christie’s leadership contributed to the loss, Gomez questioned if anyone could have beaten the FNM with what he called an overwhelming pro-FNM advertisement campaign.

He said the media inundated the electorate with a one-sided view.

“All sorts of ads were published against the government from entities that are not registered as charities or known to the public as being charities, and one wonders who these people really are,” Gomez said.

“We really have to look at campaign finance reform going foward, unless we want to be controlled by non-Bahamians, who are hiding their faces while corralling us into a particular point of view.

“I think it denied a real hearing of the different political parties.

“Not only was our voice drowned out, but the DNA’s voice was drowned out.”

Gomez also pointed to Sarkis Izmirlian’s (the former Baha Mar developer) attendance at FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis’ swearing in as prime minister at Government House.

He suggested this was evidence that Izmirlian funded the FNM’s campaign.

Betrayal

However, Galanis said the PLP lost because the electorate felt betrayed by the government and its decision to ignore the results of the January 2013 gaming referendum; the lack of transparency surrounding how value-added tax (VAT) revenue was spent; its approach to the sealed agreement with the Chinese over Baha Mar; and key promises that were not met by the former prime minister.

He said, had the Christie administration addressed any of these issues adequately, the PLP could have avoided some of the impact.

Galanis said it did “not address any one of them adequately”.

“And so, as I said, there was a cumulative effect that crescendoed into the tremendous crashing of the S.S. PLP,” he said.

Galanis said, despite the unprecedented defeat, he remains optimistic about the future for the PLP.

Galanis, who was vocal about his support for Davis to challenge Christie for leadership of the party, said he was disappointed that he did not take up the call.

In January, PLP Fort Charlotte candidate Alfred Sears was the only person who challenged Christie for the leadership.

He was soundly beaten.

Galanis said Davis has the experience, having served as deputy prime minister.

He said Davis should be the leader in the interim.

“… He ought to be our leader until we can take our time, not rush the process, and determine whether or not there is someone better suited to lead the PLP out of where we are presently to where we need to be,” Galanis said.

Gomez noted that the task for the PLP over the next five years is to rekindle the allegiance of the thousands of people, including PLPs, who voted against the party.

Both Gomez and Galanis agree that Davis should also serve as leader of the Official Opposition in the House.

Galanis also said it is critical that none of the “old guard of the former ministers should be appointed to the Senate in order to send a clear message to the Bahamian people that this is a new day”.

Davis was one of only four PLPs to win their seats in the House.

The others were Glenys Hanna-Martin (Englerston); Picewell Forbes (Mangrove Cay and South Andros) and Chester Cooper (The Exumas and Ragged Island).