By mid-year, 1961, the United Bahamian Party, was undoubtedly feeling the cold tide of political change, swirling around them. General elections were slated for the following year and the UBP Party leadership were cautiously optimistic, but expressed some philosophical, if not wholly pragmatic ideas towards change. The pressure being brought to bear, both nationally and internationally, to facilitate the vote for women, had the UBP quite naturally nervous. With the prospect of thousands of negro women becoming first time voters, the long entrenched political establishment, felt the political ground shifting beneath their feet.
Sir Stafford Sands, the man who many contend, was really the de-facto Premier – more so than Premier Sir Roland because Sands’s handprint forged the blueprint for the modern Bahamian tourist economy – expressed the most surprising thoughts on the prospect of a PLP political victory at the next general elections. Sir Stafford, uncharacteristically subdued and philosophical, expressed views on what can only be construed as political finality.
“If they [The Progressive Liberal Party] should win, they’ll behave more cautiously and with a greater understanding of responsibility. Naturally, we feel we can run things better. But under every tombstone is another guy the world is getting by without.”Sir Stafford Sands, The Miami Herald, Thursday 29 June 1961
Premier Sir Roland Symonette, also expressed the philosophical and the pragmatic, when asked about the political future of The Bahamas and the UBP.
“There will always be some persons who feel, if I were in power, I could do much better. That is a human characteristic. At one time, too, I felt that way. Now, quite to the contrary, I feel ‘Who couldn’t.’”Sir Roland Symonette, The Miami Herald, Thursday 29 June 1961
By September 1962, The Bahamas was in a recession, there was mass unemployment and investors were running away from what they felt was impending social upheaval. Political heavyweights were painting the negro supporters of the PLP as rabble rousers and those most likely to initiate political violence. It was, in the end, all hyperbolic political propaganda.
When Bahamas Governor Robert Stapledon dissolved the House of Assembly, shortly after it was declared that women would be given the right to vote for the first time, the registrar of voters were estimated at 19,126 persons on New Providence and 10,523 persons on the Out Islands. There were 12 seats in New Providence and 21 seats spread across the Out Islands.
MONDAY 26th November 1962
The November 26, 1962 Bahamas General Elections were hard fought political battles, in which the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the overwhelming popular vote; but lost by seat count.
Under the Westminister system, the Bahamas voting system utilises the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system, used in single-member districts electoral contests. Voters cast their vote for a candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins. To win the most votes, if in a two person race, the top candidate needs to get, quite naturally, more than 50%. However, when there are more than two candidates, the top candidate can win with less than 50%. They only need to get the majority number of votes.
1962 – Archaic Electoral Policy of Two and Three Representatives In Some Areas And One In Others With 33 Seats In 16 Named Constituencies
In 1962, there were only 16 constituencies and 33 seats: (1) New Providence – Nassau City – TWO SEATS; (2) Nassau – East Central – TWO SEATS; (3) Nassau – East – TWO SEATS; (4) Nassau – West – TWO SEATS; (5) Nassau – South Central – TWO SEATS; (6) Nassau – South – TWO SEATS; (7) Grand Bahama and Bimini – ONE SEAT; (8) Andros and Berry Islands – TWO SEATS (9) Abaco – THREE SEATS and (10) Harbour Island – THREE SEATS; (11) Eleuthera – THREE SEATS; (12) Cat Island – TWO SEATS; (13) Exuma – TWO SEATS; (14) Rum Cay and San Salvador – ONE SEAT; (15) Long Island – TWO SEATS; (15) Crooked Island, Long Cay & Acklins – ONE SEAT; (16) Mayaguana & Inagua – ONE SEAT
The Bahamian electoral system still operated under archaic procedures, whereby the political practice returned two and sometimes three representatives in economically important constituencies, such as, Abaco and Harbour Island, and one in others, like Grand Bahama and Bimini.
In 1956, the PLP a won six seats in Parliament becoming an official Opposition Party. By 1962, despite taking 44% of the votes, the PLP gained just 2 seats – taking their number from 6 to 8.
The Progressive Liberal Party polled 32,261 votes, carrying 44% of the total electoral votes, while the United Bahamian Party polled 26,500 votes carrying 36.14% of the votes, but took a whopping 18 seats. The win was largely attributed to gerrymandering. The win came as a surprise to the UBP.
For the UBP, in 1962, there sat in the House of Assembly, were two men named Christie, two men named Kelly and two men named Baker.
What Pindling Said After The 1962 Loss
The disappointment was great for the PLP in 1962 for one particular reason. This was the year in which women were allowed to vote for the first time in The Bahamas. The battle for the women’s vote was championed by the Progressive Liberal Party and long opposed by the United Bahamian Party. It was quite naturally expected that the women’s vote was going to put the PLP over the top at the polls. It didn’t in 1962.
The defeat was attributed to a gerrymandering of the constituency boundaries, as well as, the UBP having a well oiled funding machine that the poorly funded, but politically exuberant PLP, just didn’t have.
Things would change in 1967.