Barbados Elections: Elections People Lose


                                                      By William Skinner

The Barbados Flag
Many years ago, during the turbulent years of political rivalry between Edward Seaga and Michael Manley, in Jamaica, there was a very violent election and at the end it was dubbed:” elections that people lose”. Sometimes, the only victors are the politicians and their lackeys. The victory of the Democratic Labour Party is a victory for Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. The jury will be out for sometime as to whether it was a victory for the people.
This election clearly demonstrated that the fed-up level, with both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour party is rising; the electorate, caught between a rock and a hard place, decided that the money offered “to be put back in their pockets’ by the Barbados Labour Party, was not enough to convince them that they should bring the Bees back into office. They worried about the transport being privatized and pensioners having to pay bus fares; they worried about the Sanitation Services being privatized and having to pay for garbage removal. A people under the heavy yoke of a recession, that is not going away, are very circumspect. So, Stuart went out there and reminded them about schools that the Democratic Labour Party built and told the voters that while money in their pockets is good, their character and understanding the value of a vote are more important. A less colorful but more effective message in the end.
On the other hand, Owen Arthur did his best to convince the voters that he could revitalize the economy. Unfortunately for Arthur, he depended on a non-candidate, economist Clyde Mascoll, to be his real messenger. I have posited many times that Mascoll, his scholarship notwithstanding, is a political liability and that his credibility as a politician is a real issue. Having Mascoll headline platforms was a political blunder of monumental proportions, taking into consideration that Mia Mottley seemed to have been pushed aside. In all fairness to Arthur he tried but he was also leading very new candidates some of whom were selected during Mottley’s tenure as opposition leader.
In the final analysis, when stripped of all the talk about Wickham’s polls and the CLICO debacle, this election was basically free of any serious discourse. The failure of Arthur and Stuart to have a public debate was a grave and deliberate insult to the electorate. That showed that they were not taking the populace very seriously. We were subjected to some of the vilest and most embarrassing nonsense ever heard on political platforms from both parties. We learnt that the thirty candidates had not grasped anything about the new world economic order brought on by the crippling recession. We were treated to nothing more than entertainment.   The parties, rather than seriously engage each other, opted for presentation and no content.
It was not a violent campaign and many will honestly conclude that the close margin was a victory for the people. I respectfully submit that thinking citizens are still waiting on a real debate about how to carry Barbados forward. The only thing that the close outcome proves is that the BLP/DLP is very close in every respect. I was told by one of our most influential politicians that the House of assembly is a “club”. And that is why I contend that we have a sophisticated one party state. Why not use this numerical closeness to form a government of national reconstruction?
However, unlike the election mentioned at the beginning, there were no acts of violence and while the wearing of yellow and red is starting to bother some; I opine that if we cannot put on a tee shirt of our party’s choice, we are really in a bad place. Quite frankly I prefer the tee shirts to the violence on my ears emanating from mouths quite unfamiliar with public speaking and equally unfamiliar with the real issues. From that point of view it was indeed, an election that people lose.

William Skinner is a commentator on Caribbean cultural and political matters.

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