Will Christie Leave?
PHILIP C. GALANIS
Published: Aug 26, 2013
On August 21, 2013, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie celebrated his 70th birthday, a life that has included 40 consecutive years in Parliament. As he celebrated this milestone with family and friends, he could reminisce and revel in the trials and tribulations that he has experienced in public life in the last four decades.
Last week, in this column, we asked whether Hubert Ingraham would return to frontline politics as we approach the general election of 2017. We concluded that he would very much like to, and, if he detected a chink in the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) armor, and for that matter the Free National Movement (FNM) leadership’s armor, he would certainly seize the day. This week, in order to present a balanced view, we would like to Consider This…will Mr. Christie leave frontline politics sometime during this term as he said he would before the general election of 2012?
During the last general election campaign, Mr. Christie said that this would be his last campaign. Mr. Ingraham said the same thing at that time. The dilemma that both men are probably facing is the existential angst of rationalizing their well-intended pronouncements and their deepest personal desires. There is a natural, human inclination to conclude the task at hand, to finish the race, to complete the agenda. It is very easy to justify the desire to stay or to return because both men believe that they have an unfinished agenda.
The reality is that as long as there is life and politics, the national agenda will never be completed. As in a relay race, the best that a team member can hope for is to run the best leg of the race that one can for as long (or short) as it lasts, and then to pass the baton to the next person to carry it to the finish line. No single person is capable of running the relay race without the help of his other teammates. The same is true in politics. It will therefore be very difficult for either Mr. Ingraham to return or for Mr. Christie to stay in light of the promise made by both that this is their last term.
Will Mr. Christie leave?
To a great extent, Mr. Christie’s decision to run for another term will significantly depend on Mr. Ingraham. If Mr. Ingraham decides to return to active politics and mounts another bid to become prime minister, there is absolutely no way that Mr. Christie will leave the scene. If, on the other hand, Mr. Ingraham does not return, as we believe he would like to, then Mr. Christie will have to immediately face the question of when he should exit the political stage. In the first instance, he will have to address the all-important question of whether he will wear out his welcome if he decides to stay in the face of Mr. Ingraham’s departure.
Should he decide to stay, Mr. Christie will be challenged to answer how acceptable it will be for a 74-year-old man to run against an FNM Leader who will be considerably younger than he is because, if Dr. Hubert Minnis remains the FNM leader and spearheads the 2017 general election campaign, he will be more than a decade younger than the Prime Minister. And while a decade might not appear to be significant, what is significant is that Dr. Minnis represents a generational shift — a post-Pindling era leader who was not a protégé of Sir Lynden. If the FNM elects another leader who is even younger than Dr. Minnis, this would accentuate the generational gap even more.
In short, if Mr. Ingraham does not return to the political stage and Mr. Christie decides to run against a younger, new generation FNM leader, given the decidedly different demographics that existed in 2012 and that will exist even more markedly in 2017, it would be extremely difficult for Mr. Christie to make a persuasive case as to why the PLP torch should not be passed to a new generation of Bahamians. Consequently the FNM could win the elections, thereby ushering into office a much younger Prime Minister, inspired by a more demanding electorate that does not see a septuagenarian as relevant or as appreciative of their needs, hopes and aspirations.
The real dilemma facing the PLP is as much whether Mr. Christie will run as to when he will leave? If he keeps his promise that 2012 was his last campaign and decides to depart, he will have to face the reality of planning for and creating what will be a successful successor who can sustain and accomplish Christie’s agenda. The PLP must do this to ensure a smooth, seamless transition from Mr. Christie to his successor if it wishes to be successful at the polls in 2017. The party’s victory will depend as much on this as it will on the ability of Mr. Christie’s successor to catch the imagination of the Bahamian people by mounting a charismatic and inspiring campaign.
The best formula for Mr. Christie’s transition would be for him to leave the scene at a time when he and the PLP are at a high-water mark, providing a road map for succession, much like Prime Minister P. J. Patterson of Jamaica did with Portia Simpson, in order to enhance his party’s prospects of success.
In addition, given Mr. Christie’s enormous experience and vast knowledge of the local Bahamian political culture, his successor would be well advised to engage him as an elder statesman in a way that has not been previously done in our politics.
Up to now, in The Bahamas, to our national detriment and disadvantage, we habitually push our leaders aside once they leave office, losing their considerable and unique expertise and perspective that could be drawn on as an important resource. We can take a page from the considerable national and international roles that are played and contributions made by former U.S. presidents after they leave office. Singapore also provides a stellar example of how a former prime minister can be engaged for the national benefit, demonstrated by how they found a formula to include Lee Kwan Yu as senior minister in that government after he served as prime minister of that country for three decades.
The question as to whether Mr. Christie will run again cannot be answered with certainty, except, of course, by Mr. Christie. In response to that question, in characteristic Christie style, he himself might quote Bob Dylan’s lyrics in his famous song of 50 years ago that “the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Many skirmishes will take place on the political battlefield between now and the ultimate decision-making time. And, therefore, we end our column to this week’s question on Mr. Christie’s departure as we did last week on Mr. Ingraham’s return. Only time will tell!
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.