May will mark the second anniversary of the current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration. By then Perry Christie would have held the top elected office in the country for about seven years over two non-consecutive terms. Christie is 70 years old. He’ll be 71 in August.
When leaders are older in the Westminster system there is always speculation as to when they will depart, when they will retire. Christie has made vague, convoluted statements suggesting his career is winding down but he has never clearly, explicitly and definitively said he is retiring during this term.
We know several things, however, about Christie and his party that provide strong evidence that he is going nowhere. We know he loves being prime minister – the man in charge of things. We also know that he is the only one in his party who can hold together its factions as they currently exist.
On the first point, simply put, if you are enjoying the best time of your life – being “king of The Bahamas” – why would you leave? There is no one in the PLP who can dethrone him. He has no rivals.
And, to the second point, the PLPs who are empowered via Christie need him to stay put.
Another PLP leader will have his own friends and allies. He will not elevate the same people. He will not have the same Cabinet. Those PLPs looking for help from the state might not have as friendly an ear with the new leader.
So if life and business are good with Christie as chief, why disrupt things by looking for a new PLP to take over?
Two prominent PLPs told this newspaper that there is widespread support in the party for Christie to stay on as leader and take the party into the next election.
Although the next election is three years away, unless a viable contender for the PLP’s leadership emerges it is likely that many in the party will rally behind Christie not to step down, said former PLP Cabinet minister George Smith.
“I believe that Mr. Christie enjoys tremendous support of the party and unless someone is obviously in a position to demonstrate that individual could command that support, there are bound to be individuals in the party who would push for Mr. Christie to continue,” he said.
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said while the PLP has “a cadre of new generation leaders” many in the party love and are committed to Christie.
For Christie there may be another reason to stay: The weakness of the Free National Movement (FNM) leader.
Dr. Hubert Minnis is trying his best to keep the opposition vibrant but he simply cannot rally his troops. They do not think he can win. They are not behind him and that is obvious to the public.
Christie thinks he can beat Minnis just as he thought he could beat Tommy Turnquest years ago.
The FNM keeping Minnis in office will help keep Christie in place.
Reality can change quickly in politics. New realities will disrupt the current setting.
No one should assume, though, that Christie is just leaving public life because of his age.
Ronald Regan was just getting started in the United States when he was Christie’s age. Our leader likes his job. Don’t expect him to leave any time soon.
Published Saturday, March 22, 2014