It’s election season in The Bahamas. *sighs* I hate it. The first few weeks are always entertaining, but then it gets really old. And annoying. And stupid. A lot of people stop at nothing to win seats in the House of Assembly. A lot of people stop at nothing to show their undying support of their party. This time around, things are even crazier. The Bahamas has been a two-party nation for decades. Independents pretty much never win a seat. No one wants to throw their vote away on anything but an FNM or PLP candidate since one of their leaders will become Prime Minister. (Yes, we have a stupid system. A vote for a party is a vote for the leader of the country.) Here’s the kicker for this election season: A new political party was just started last year. The DNA. Some people love ’em, some people hate ’em. No one knows what will happen, but most people expect them to serve in splitting up the votes (for the two main parties), and that’s about it.
Here are a few points to get your familiar with what things are like in The Bahamas right now:
- There are at least 3 rallies per week. A rally is an outdoor event held by a political party with food, drinks, entertainment, and addresses to the crowd from various MP’s. The entire crowd dresses in the political party’s colour/t-shirt.
- People have flags on their cars, letting everyone know who their preferred party is.
- Posters are on every single lamp pole with the faces, names, and party symbol/name of the candidates for the constituency/area the lamp pole is in.
- The newspaper and tv news is full of stories on the last rally, memorable points from “speeches,” and party members complaining about what other parties have said, or twisting words to fool the people.
- Every single radio talk show is about the upcoming election. They usually have a guest (running for a constituency), and take callers.
- Business take advantage of the season as much as possible. For example, Domino’s has a $12.99 large rally pizza special. The red (FNM) is pepperoni and roasted red peppers, the gold (PLP) is pineapple and ham, and the green (DNA) is green peppers and barbeque chicken.
- There are super long radio ads for parties.
- There are giant stupid signs on roundabouts for ALL (including tourists) to see, posted by the current opposition, highlighting the number of murders the country has seen in the past 5 years (political term).
- People are making t-shirts out of every possible soundbite or joke made by the current Prime Minister (who is very much a comedian). At rallies, DJ’s tend to play soundbites during the speeches which break up the monotony, and the speaker carries on. A few months ago, the PM was speaking, and the soundbite “Are you serious?!” said by a young woman was played. The PM responded, “DEAD SERIOUS!” The crowd went wild. We are still not over it. The man is hilarious.
- People make reference to elections by mistake. My aunt told me about her pastor speaking to the church. He said, “It’s unbelievable!” The church responded, “It’s unthinkable!” It wasn’t until later that day that he was reminded of the “It’s unbelievable! It’s unthinkable!” soundbite used by the opposition. Yes, this is how far it has gone. The CHURCH.
- Candidates actually go door-to-door to speak with their constituents. Sometimes, they send canvasers in their place, but they know that it is in their best interest to personally visit constituents. They take flyers and goodies with them in attempt to win votes.
- People play both sides. They wear the right colour shirt for the right visitor. They use their “support” to get money, jobs, and other favours.
- Decisions to support a party often puts man-against-man, grandmother-against-grandson, mother-against-daughter. Many families have historically voted one way, and expect no one – not even new generations – to change that.
- People of opposing parties yell at each other, belittle one another’s party leaders, throw jeers, etc. All in the name of party loyalty and “fun”.
- Election tourism. I didn’t know it existed until my brother met visitors from Canada. “We come here every 5 years for this! It’s awesome! You guys are so into it! You wear all your colours and everything. We’ve got all our colours. There’s a new green one now too, right? We have that too.” The couple has the time of their life, listening to all the talk shows, attending the crazy rallies, etc. They LOVE it. THAT, to me, is HILARIOUS.