By David Tapfer
Those watching political events are directing their attention to the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) convention in Grand Turk this weekend. Will leader Taylor survive or will he be overcome by Oswald Skippings? In either case it will be viewed as a victory for Grand Turk itself, with both candidates hailing from the capital island and the convention being held there.
David Tapfer is a retired, US-born engineer and management executive. He is the former chairman of the Middle Caicos Branch of the Peoples Democratic Movement
The PDM party appears to be in a race for its future and possibly its near term survival. However, in my view they seem to have their collective engines in reverse not forward.
It is hoped by some that a Skippings leadership will provide the media attention missing since the momentum created by Parnell was sidetracked by a nasty and inaccurate newspaper article. The unfortunate article was welcomed by his own party people who were jockeying for a position. Let’s face the facts. The Progressive National Party (PNP) had already written off the November election knowing that Doug was seemingly unstoppable. Many believe it was not only the PNP but PDM insiders who encouraged “Mr B” to print his nonsense. In any event party biggies failed to back their own leader when it was clear he was in the right. Lousy politics.
The old PDM theory has been trotted out again and you have heard it articulated by leader Taylor: “I will bring the country from (PNP) disgrace to Amazing Grace.”
In my view it is not good politics to win an election because the other party went down. You need to win based on your own vision and plans.
Like a crop of emerging mosquitoes, former PDMs have come out from hiding because, like the bugs, they smell blood. For four years I attended sparsely attended NGC meetings. With elections closer than the horizon, where have all these folks come from? They failed to follow party constitutional rules.
However, cooler heads are counting seats looking at the electorate and wondering if the country’s oldest party is on track.
There will be 15 elected seats: 5 at large, 6 in Provo, only 2 in Grand Turk, 1 each in North/Middle and 1 in South Caicos. It was hoped by the British that the at large seats would encourage people to cross party lines and perhaps even vote for an independent at large guy or girl.
This is more evidence that the Brits do not understand the dynamics of TCI politics any more than they understand the islands’ economics. This economic issue was spoken to by Taylor and in this he is spot on. However, his silence otherwise has left a political void and turned off many party delegates.
We have to assume that, in selecting their district representative, the voters will back their local selection by choosing five at large candidates from the same party. Why send your local favourite into a opposition position? It is the coat tails of the local candidates that the “at large” people will ride on.
This makes the candidate selection in the six Provo and one North/Middle seats critical. The coat tails of those seven Caicos candidates will actually drag along the other five at large seats (7 + 5 = 12). Remember that the five “at large” seats will go to the top five vote getters and Provo districts will have many more voters than those in Grand Turk. North/Middle will have about the same number as each of Grand Turk's two districts. The important point here is that the Provo seats will have much bigger coat tails for their parties at large folks to ride on. It is a seemingly impossible scenario that a party would lose most of the district seats yet win all or most of the “at large” seats.
Also it must be taken into account that 80 percent of the population nearly always vote along party lines and, with 40 percent for each party, 20 percent of the population decides the election. In the last landslide, 17 percent of this swing group voted conch shell, giving the PNP a 13/2 victory. The prolonged British takeover has given PNP renewed hope to reinvent themselves. Then there is the youth vote, most of which is in Provo.
Why the PDM is having their convention in a rented facility in Grand Turk when they need to make points in Provo and North Caicos is seemingly a bad strategy. Grand Turk PDM supporters will in any event give them at least one seat. However the seven seats in Provo and North/Middle are up for grabs and to win the government either party needs a minimum of eight seats. Because Norman and family will still own the one South Caicos seat and possibly one at large seat, the PDM needs four of the other Caicos seats and three at large to win a narrow victory. They could win with a minimum of three district seats and four at large but is this a realistic scenario? Where are the poll takers?
Why ignore the most important Provo and North Caicos voters when a well promoted and attended Provo PDM convention in their own downtown headquarters would be a major media event that could positively influence Caicos Island swing voters?