Andrew Burrows ZNS Director of News Gives His Take On Turks Elections

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From Andrew Burrows’ Facebook Page
17 December

Having covered the elections here in the Turks & Caicos islands and being around the people here for the last week has given me a new perspective on how we do things in The Bahamas and politics in particular. Some useful, some just observational but all eye opening. Wanna hear? Good. 10 things that make TCI general elections different, and maybe even better, than ours.

  1. Like Bahamians, TCI people take politics very seriously, but with a touch of British reserve. While they take it to heart and get really into it, they almost never lose their minds in the way Bahamians do. There is no equivalent to Laura Williams or her FNM counterpart here. That is way way way over the top for them. They’re just too cool for that.
  2. TCI voters, politicians and supporters are very well mannered compared to how we do it. They can agree to the type of elections they want and stick to it. Apparently, the parties agreed (if not officially) to stick to the issues and steer clear of the mudslinging that we Bahamians know all too well. Sure, there were some things said and done by supporters but for the most part, the parties and major independents kept things very very civil and above board.
  3. TCI voters, politicians and supporters play by the rules. Imagine my surprise to learn that election paraphernalia, party branding, signage, wristbands and dress of any kind except for color are banned on Election day. There is no campaigning in or around the polls and 150 yards means 150 yards. No cameras are allowed any closer, regardless of who is voting. No interviews are allowed within a reasonable distance of the voters and anything resembling a gathering that could influence voter intent is discouraged. They police themselves. Imagine waking up election day in the Bahamas and ALL of the posters and billboards are gone from every street, every round about, every lamp pole. Gone completely. Not even the stands remain. They knock it all down by midnight election morning. To see this country the day before elections and a few hours later is like a freaking miracle. Three parties contested the elections and quite a few independents, making 52 candidates in all. Not one poster remained.Julian Reidand I were amazed.
  4. TCI rallies are not at all close to the spectacles they are in The Bahamas. Rally day in the Bahamas will see production teams and party advance teams at locations a day or two in advance. Staging and lighting are taken care of the day of the rally with great efficiency. Audio testing is completed usually by 4 PM for an 8 PM start and by 5, the rally goers, especially the “seasoned” ones are taking up their spots in the front. Vendors are already lined up with food cooking from 5 PM. Multiple bars and vendors of hats, shirts, etc are all positioned. Put it this way. The amount of people at this stage in a Bahamian rally outnumbered a rally we attended on Grand Turk, their capital, on Tuesday evening. TCI rallies start at approximate times, speakers take up approximate amount of speaking times and they pretty much consist of speech, followed by speech followed by more speech. The showmanship and performances and interaction between DJ, MC and the crowd being worked up are very much subdued here. They get on with their business. LOL. People show up when they want to, park where they want to and very often, stay in their cars and honk their horns at the appropriate times.
  5. The entrance of the leader at a Bahamian rally is the high point of our rallies. Until that moment when Perry Christie, Hubert Minnis orBranville McCartneyare being announced to speak, they are not seen at the rallies. The crowds are worked up in anticipation of seeing their leaders and the theme song and walk through creates tremendous drama. WWE can learn a thing or two from us in this regard. By the time our leaders reach the stage, having been walked up by a mob of enthusiastic supporters, police officers, campaign support personnel and super fans, the crowd is worked into a fevered pitch. The music is playing, the energy is high and every single person on the ballot is on that stage to greet their leader. Here….meh. The leader comes out early, goes around the rallies and says hi to pretty much everyone there, including the press. The new Premier stunned us when we got to the rally and before it began, she was shaking hands and saying hi and chilling out. I asked their national campaign chairman if this was normal. He looked at me as if to say anything other than this would be abnormal. Every person at the rally got to touch the leader and have a word.
  6. Election day here is like any other day except everyone is on the road early heading to the polls. They do not have the kind of time we have to vote nor is the day an unofficial holiday like it is in The Bahamas. Folks come out, line up, mark their X then go to work. That’s pretty much it. No crazy trash talking, no filling up on the drinks bought the night before, none of that. That’s for later and even then, it’s for small groups. There are no tents near the gate and no noise of any kind. The cops run the show on election day and everyone pretty much keeps their emotions in check. They don’t flash party signs either. You will never know how they vote when they line up or even come from the polls UNLESS you ask. Folks are not shy at that point but they will only say to us because we ask. They don’t really taunt each other to the level Bahamians do.
  7. TCI voters actually know their candidates. With a small population, it’s actually hard not to but they take it to another level. Who isn’t a relative is a friend and it shows through even when they are on opposing sides. In one race, there was a brother versus a sister and a nephew. Three people, three parties, one family. There were several people who were cousins, not distant mind you. 1st and second cousins. Again, different parties. Lots of siblings ran together too so a lot of the names are the same. The concept of sharing their votes is understandable here. Oh, and EVERYONE either has a nickname or is known by just their first name.
  8. TCI has 15 seats in it’s parliament. 10 are constituency seats like we have and 5 are what they call at-large or all-island seats. Those seats are contested by candidates who canvass the entire country for votes and the top 5 vote-getters nationally are elected to parliament. These seats are often contested by people who have national appeal. The leaders of the three parties ran all island as well as some very popular politicians. I like this concept and it certainly would make sense to me to consider this. Every voter has six votes to cast. One for their constituency and five for the at-large candidates. Parties encourage their supporters to “vote down the line”. This hurts independents. Speaking of which…..
  9. Michael Misickis beloved in this country. Even the folks who are against him love him. We heard opponents speak well of him and what he brought to the country, even after they acknowledge the negatives. There is a healthy regard for their former Premier that is quite a thing to behold. Maybe that was just for us as “foreign press”. Something where they won’t speak ill of each other under any circumstances. So popular among voters is Misick, he was able to come pretty close to winning a seat as an all-island candidate. That’s pretty remarkable considering the fact that he is also on trial. He told us his winning would be a vindication for all that he’s been through. Correction Michael, I think your vindication came the moment someone marked their X next to your name. They don’t bury people politically in the TCI like we do in The Bahamas. Everyone gets to make a comeback over here.
  10. It’s business as usual the minute the winner is declared in TCI. All the hard feelings and resentment that Bahamians have for the next few years after an elections are alien to these folks. Even opponents start talking the second it’s all over. They literally get over it and move on. I suppose being this small, it’s a natural thing for them to do. One voice note that instantly went viral over here was that of a former top MP McCallister Hanchell joking about the “good cut ass” his opponent put on him. He laughed it off, thanked those who voted and said “let’s get to work”. He actually was quite jolly in that note and not a hint of bitterness. Michael Misick was live on the air congratulating his opponents and even declared the PDM would be the winners well before seats were called. The sportsmanship, if you can call it that, is exceptional here. They literally get on with it right after it’s decided.

Maybe one day we will decide the kind of elections we run is too much. But then again, you gotta admit that our elections on steroids is pretty addictive. LOL.