Just as surely as Bajan fisherfolk can smell land in the wind, voters sense the approach of the next election. Some say that the campaign has already started while others say exactly the opposite and point to the silence of the still-divided and cash-shy BLP Opposition as proof that the Bees aren’t ready.
Ready or not though, the time is almost upon us.
But if the Bees aren’t ready or united, then how should we describe the ruling Democratic Labour Party? Freundel Stuart survived an aborted attempt by many MPs to remove him. Oh, I know the DLP say that wasn’t what ‘the letter’ was all about… but it was all about exactly that. Many MPs wanted to get rid of the accidental Prime Minister who only leads this country because he was in the right place and time when David Thompson passed on.
The recent worldwide financial crisis has not been kind to the DLP or governments anywhere, and as we’ve seen in many recent elections the voters seem inclined to punish incumbents whether they should justifiably be blamed or not.
Cricket World Cup, anyone?
In Barbados it can be argued that the weakness in our economy and the poor state of the infrastructure is the legacy of 14 years of BLP overspending and living high off the hog.
There is certainly some truth that Owen Arthur and the BLP were spendthrifts, crooks and without the ability to complete a single major project without some disaster. Whether it was Cricket World Cup, the flyover debacle, the public rape known as Hotels and Resorts or the hundred million dollars thrown into a never to be opened landfill, the Barbados Labour Party proved time and time again that they were incompetent and thieves. (One could not call them ‘incompetent thieves’ because pocketing public monies was the one thing they were excellent at.)
The voters haven’t forgotten the excesses of the BLP, and now that Owen Arthur has slapped Mottley around and regained the helm, the BLP’s ability to claim they are not the same old gang is gone.
But voters also know that the DLP has been in power for coming up on five years and no matter how much damage the BLP legacy did to Barbados, the voters are also saying that after five years the DLP government owns the problems.
Bajan voters would like to punish the DLP, but that means re-installing King Arthur and the gang. There is no viable third party in Barbados. If this country had a third party it would do very well this time around.
There is one big unknown though, and you hear the talk spoken quietly here and there: many Bajans are not going to vote for the Dees or the Bees despite what they might say openly. Many voters are going to quietly support ‘anybody else’… and that has the potential to shake up many so-called ‘secure’ DLP and BLP election strongholds.
Next in Part II: The rise of independent voters and candidates around the world.