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Foreign influence in elections


Published: Jul 16, 2013

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The Bahamas has a true free market system when it comes to politics. With no campaign finance laws donations can come in to political parties from all types of sources – both local and foreign. At some point we hope our legislators see the wisdom in creating some rules surrounding the financing of political parties in this country.

There has been controversy in recent days surrounding the relationship between Finnish-born fashion designer Peter Nygard and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The Free National Movement (FNM) has charged that the PLP has produced stem cell legislation with Nygard in mind.

Nygard has been outspoken in his support for Prime Minister Perry Christie and the PLP; but yesterday he added that he has backed both major political parties over the years.

“I don’t know, I’ve been supporting people for the last 30 years,” he told reporters at Nygard Cay when asked what, if any, financial contributions he made to the PLP or FNM.

“I don’t measure in terms of amounts of money… I’ve been a people’s person all my life and been supporting various causes. I don’t even measure how much the support really is.”

Nygard admitting he has been “supporting” candidates over the years may offend some people. But those who are offended should know that under our current system Nygard has a right to donate as much as he wants to any candidate or party.

The Bahamas has a small population and a small economy. Here donations of a few million dollars by wealthy foreigners could sway the balance of power. For that foreigner, who may be worth billions of dollars, $2 million to $3 million may be a pittance. Such a donation, however, buys influence and possibly even power.

There are debates worldwide about the reasonable scope of campaign finance laws. One we should all agree on, however, is that foreign money should be banned from Bahamian politics.

Citizens vote in elections – not fly-by-night residents with unclear motives and interests. Foreigners should not be able to buy an outcome when we vote. Other basic campaign finance laws are needed in The Bahamas too. We may decided to make real disclosure laws about election contributions over certain levels in order to inform the public of who has the ‘closest access’ to public officials.

What we should not do if we move to create campaign finance laws is to create laws that are unenforceable in the current climate. We are a small country that has not yet mastered consistently patrolling our streets with marked cars. We need not try in a first attempt to enforce laws developed countries barely can keep up with.

Nygard declares emphatically that he supports Christie.

“I think he’s a much better man than the previous prime minister and has a much better heart and deserves to be a prime minister,” the designer said.

“His platform was better and I was happy to see him win and I celebrated that. I don’t think much of the last government.”

We should move to limit the support of visitors to mere moral support rather than allowing them to invest in our political process and have more influence than they should.

 

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