Critically labelled as a negro government, the world waited with baited breath, for what many saw as the PLPs impending failure. It’s demise was predicted by pundits of every persuasion, both home and abroad. Just hours after January 15th, 1967, when the general election deadlock was finally broken in the PLPs favour, with only a one vote, one member majority, some predicted, Bahamians would end up having to eat grass.

(The Tallahassee Democrat 25 March 1968)

By May 23rd, 1967, the new Pindling-led PLP government had seemingly failed its first test.

It would lose the Crooked Island by-election.

The Crooked Island Vote 1967

Only four months had passed, into the new administration, when Pindling faced his first election battle, a soon to be bitterly contested by-election in Crooked Island in May 1967. Crooked Island had voted UBP on January 10th, 1967, but the UBP was not taking any chances. An impending by-election sent all the political heavyweights to the naturally misshapen island, to campaign hard. To ensure order, 34 policemen were sent to keep the peace and support the little two-man squad assigned to the three-island districts.

For five long weeks, Premiere Pindling and Opposition Leader Roland Symonette, gave it their best and all, in rousing speeches in support of their party’s candidates.

In the end, the PLP lost. This setback did not change the majority balance of one, precariously enjoyed by the government in the House of Assembly.

But all that would soon change, just one year later.

The Death of Uriah McPhee

Uriah McPhee, PLP representative for Shirlea had died suddenly. McPhee, only 42 years old when he died, was given a state funeral. This meant that the seats in the House of Assembly were back to an even draw. Pindling pondered long and hard on the way forward. Another by-election was risky, given the outcome of Crooked Island, and considering that McPhee took Shirlea by only 100 votes in 1967.

Pindling was well aware that it would take just one seat, to sweep away the PLP majority and plunge the Bahamas back under UBP rule.

It was nothing short of unprecedented, in all the political annals of Bahamian history that just 15 months after one general election in 1967, some 55,273 eligible voters in the Bahamas, would have to go to the polls again.

But that’s exactly what happened!

The 1968 general elections were more bitter and more racially charged than ever.

(The Sun Sentinel 7 April 1968)

All sorts of doomsday predictions about the Bahamas becoming communist or ending up like Haiti flew around the world’s newspapers.

(The Sun Sentinel 7 April 1968)

Pindling decided to bet it all, his future, the PLPs future, all the gains made by his government in such a short period time, on one roll of the political dice.

He bet it all on April 10, 1968.

The country went back to the polls again. Pindling would rather risk it all on 38 seats than risk it all on just 1!

The House of Assembly was dissolved on March 1, 1968. Polls opened bright and early on April 10th, 1968

Foreign Interference on eve of General Elections 1968

The UBP (United Bahamian Party) caused an international stir, when it was discovered that its Party were using radio stations in Florida to broadcast paid political announcements. The Federal Communications Commission stepped in and shut down the UBP broadcasts just three days before elections, as Pindling protested that this constituted foreign interference in the internal domestic affairs of another country. The UBP in response to the revelation said that Pindling was not allowing the Opposition air time on ZNS radio. Pindling shot back that the UBP was allowed air time every night of the week.

(The Sun Sentinel 7 April 1968)

On April 11th, after the dust had settled, the PLPs majority moved from 1 to 10. It was one of the first times that the enduring slogan for the party “PLP ALL THE WAY” was first chanted as people drove along the streets from places like Prison Lane, Lilly of the Valley Corner, Lovers Lane and the tourist area of Bay Street, to celebrate the election victory.

They say that even the American tourists joined in the revelry, because as everyone knows, there is nothing like a party in the Bahamas.

(The Miami News 11 April 1968)

“The New Bahamian is an uncouth boor”

The 1967 and 1968 election victories left a bitter taste in the mouths of many middle class Black Bahamians, who were staunch UBP supporters. Bahamians had suddenly found their voice and it was loud, and angry, and uncommonly bold for black people in the islands at that time. It was almost as if they had only just heard themselves speak for the first time.

Not everyone liked the tone of this new voice.

Pindling called Bahamians of the new era now beginning under the PLP “The New Bahamians.”

One has to understand that in 1968, the ballot box enabled a new found personal freedom and empowerment, which had never been experienced before by so many, across the islands. It struck deeply in the hearts and minds of the working class, the common folk, “the grassroots” poor people of the Bahamas.

The international media was quick to pick up on anything that even intimated animosity or dislike between black and black. No wonder the comments made by Cleophas Adderley, a UBP Member, were given space to breathe in print.

(The Tallahassee Democrat 25 March 1968)
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