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Strange bedfellows

Peculiar alliances give way to an unholy mess
  • (From left) Loretta Butler-Turner, Branville McCartney and Dr. Andre Rollins.

Managing Editor

Published: Dec 19, 2016

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Back in June when six Free National Movement MPs threatened to unseat FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis as leader of the Official Opposition, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney said “heads should roll” within the party.

Calling the group ‘the sad six’, McCartney said, “For persons to take that approach and then chicken out and don’t take it further, well they would need to meet the consequences. And certainly I would hate for that to happen within the DNA while I’m the leader, because there are options that the leader can do.

“And I will not take it lightly, I can tell you that. And I trust the good doctor would not take it lightly as well because that’s almost mutiny; that’s almost mutiny within the FNM.”

In that Tribune article, McCartney also questioned whether the six FNM MPs carefully thought out their plan, pointing out that even if Minnis is ousted as leader of the Official Opposition he would still remain leader of the FNM.

Months later, on December 7, the group McCartney once called the sad six, grew to seven when Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key, angered by what he called a betrayal by Minnis, sided with the majority who still wanted Minnis gone.

They swiftly pulled the carpet from under Minnis, and McCartney was there to lap up the spoils.

He quickly accepted an appointment from the new opposition leader, Loretta Butler-Turner, becoming leader of opposition business in the Senate, although it is anyone’s guess what this new arrangement truly means.

It is a curious match, a peculiar association, that has left many skeptical about whether it could survive, given McCartney’s larger-than-life ego and Butler-Turner’s irrepressible sense of entitlement and lack of any real plan or path to sustained political leadership.

Watching these events play out in recent days, we were again reminded that in the world of politics, changing alliances and the shrewd maneuvers that sometimes accompany them make for a confusing view of politicians, undermine trust in political leadership and often leave members of the electorate wondering whether they truly are the paramount consideration of those seeking high office.

The current opposition politicians attempting to climb to the top of the pile and jockeying for relevance have had a mix of strange and sometimes far from cordial relations.

McCartney has stressed that there is no coalition between the DNA and the group of MPs who removed Minnis as opposition leader, but there is an alliance, or an “understanding”, as they put it.

Last Monday, McCartney sat at Butler-Turner’s side in the Minority Room of the House of Assembly as she announced his appointment to the Senate.

Back in May, Butler-Turner rejected talks of a coalition between the FNM and the DNA as “not a good idea”, given the third party’s fledgling status.

“We are the alternative government,” she told The Tribune. “Clearly, the FNM is the alternative choice for the Bahamian people. I cannot see a grouping that has no seats in Parliament dictating how the Official Opposition should move forward.”

Now she has chosen McCartney to lead the Official Opposition’s charge in the Upper Chamber.

While she said back in May that a coalition with the DNA was not a good idea, she said last week that she and McCartney have been in talks since her first leadership bid in November 2014, suggesting that, had she become leader of the FNM, the two sides could have reached an agreement at that time.

It is such double-speak from politicians that has so many weary of them on the whole.

Butler-Turner’s decision to appoint McCartney to the Senate has upped his profile. For him, that is no doubt a good thing.

His criticisms of the earlier move to strip Minnis of the title of leader of the Official Opposition are long behind him — but not forgotten by many attempting to decide who to trust and how to vote.

While McCartney has taken the political hand of Butler-Turner, the DNA has not had a record of expressing any high regard for her.

In July, the DNA’s finance spokesperson, Youri Kemp, criticized her statements on the country’s economy, charging that she has “little or nothing” to offer on the issue other than “empty statements and glittering generalities without substance”.

It will be interesting to see in the final months of this term how Butler-Turner and McCartney handle any economic issues that arise in Parliament, as well as other critical issues.

While they have not previously walked in step, Butler-Turner and McCartney announced that they were moving foward in a spirit of unity, as they had a common goal — to defeat the Progressive Liberal Party.


In September, Butler-Turner accepted the FNM’s nomination for Long Island. She traveled to Long Island for a rally with Minnis, pledging a spirit of unity and vowing to defeat the PLP.

Weeks later, after Key excoriated Minnis in the press, Butler-Turner and the other five MPs who were a part of the original plot to get rid of Minnis, saw a renewed opportunity to go after the FNM leader.

As we watched developments, we were reminded that, in June, Key described Butler-Turner as a “troublemaker” who would be dealt with by her constituents.

Key also said Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins needed another slap from Butler-Turner to set him straight. It was a reference to Butler-Turner slapping Rollins in the House in 2013, claiming he had “abused” her.

Key was also critical of the MPs who had clearly lost confidence in Minnis: “Those six dissidents have just lost it. They are not on this planet at all politically,” Key said at the time.

But when he spoke with National Review two weeks ago, Key said he owed Butler-Turner an apology for not supporting her in her previous attempt to get rid of Minnis.

Even without Key, the other MPs still had the majority needed to move against Minnis, who thwarted a similar plot last fall by bringing Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and Rollins into the FNM.

Back then, Wells and Rollins were political twins.

They started in the now defunct National Development Party, railing against the establishment.

Close to the 2012 general election, they hitched their political wagon to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and rode victoriously to take up their seats in the House of Assembly.

By 2015, for different reasons, they had fallen out of grace with Perry Christie and the PLP.

They needed a political lifeline, and so did Minnis.

With Wells and Rollins in the party, the five MPs no longer had a majority needed to oust him.

Earlier this year, Rollins was on the ground making the rounds in Long Island, exploring the possibility of seeking a nomination there, a move that reportedly peeved Butler-Turner.

But Rollins’ loyalty to Minnis was wearing thin.

In March, when Minnis came under fire for meeting (more than once) with one of the characters at the center of a bizarre (alleged) murder-for-hire plot involving wealthy Lyford Cay residents Peter Nygard and Louis Bacon, Rollins saw a side of Minnis he did not like.

Soon, he was criticizing Minnis in the media.

He continues to do so.

Last Thursday, Rollins said he and “others” are working on having Minnis removed as party leader before the next general election because he is incompetent and unable to lead.

It was an odd statement. The FNM does not intend to have another convention before the general election. Even if it did, there is no one under God’s sun who would reasonably expect Butler-Turner to win the leadership.

If there is a route to oust Minnis as FNM leader, it has not yet been revealed by those plotting to do so.

While Rollins is now batting on Team Loretta, Wells is continuing to take his chances with Minnis.

He is hoping to win Bamboo Town as an FNM. He won the seat as a PLP.

In 2007, McCartney won Bamboo Town as an FNM and tried to win it as a DNA in 2012.

Rollins won’t get a PLP nomination, and he won’t get an FNM nomination, as far as we can see.

Clearly, he is hopeful that his affiliation with the new leader of the opposition will pay dividends.

The two of them have had a sketchy past.

In 2013 when she slapped him, Rollins declared, “She needs to seek the help of a psychiatrist.”

More recently, after Butler-Turner dramatically pulled out of the FNM leadership race in July, Rollins said it would be “illogical and unacceptable” for her and the other five MPs who sought to undermine Minnis to seek renomination.

Rollins said this would “amount to political malpractice of the worst kind”.


Butler-Turner got her nomination and was seemingly prepared to go into the election supporting Minnis, even if that support was far from enthusiastic.

Her running mate, Dr. Duane Sands, who dropped out of the deputy leadership race, was nominated for Elizabeth.

Sands had said that if Minnis emerged from the July convention as leader, he would offer his resignation from the Senate.

Sands’ resignation did not come until the evening of December 7 as he and the other three senators appointed by Minnis did the honorable thing after the MPs wrote the governor general asking that Minnis be removed.

Following the dramatic events week before last, Sands was in a prickly position.

He was still widely viewed as aligned with Butler-Turner. He still has a nomination from the party led by Minnis.

We understand that Butler-Turner offered to re-appoint him to the Senate.

Sands had to decide with whom his allegiance rested.

He was present at Government House last week when the governor general presented Butler-Turner with her instruments of appointment. Days later, he was at Minnis’ side as the party held a rally with the aim of shoring up Minnis’ support and portraying a strong force in the face of a chaotic period for the FNM.

Sands reconfirmed his commitment to remain loyal to the leader of the FNM, who has pulled out the political noose for Butler-Turner and the other “mutineers”.

As that noose tightens and the political drama plays out in the coming weeks, few things are likely to be certain.

Alliances could be broken, daggers could be drawn on allies turned political foes, and the loyalties that have been forged could very easily be abandoned as the various players move to protect their interests.

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Last Updated on Monday, 19 December 2016 04:29


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