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Beyond the News, Inside the Issues

Political Punditry and 2022 Barbados Election Part 2

Jan 4, 2022

In the first part of this article we assessed the views of three Barbadian political pundits as reported in the NationNews of Thursday 30 December.

Their analysis has had to be taken with a pinch of salt – and a little Bajan pepper sauce – given that the full slate of candidates was not known, and would not be known, until the end of nomination day which is today 3 January.

At the time of finalizing this article, it was known that the two major parties had each fielded the maximum 30 candidates and that the APP, the collaboration of two minor parties, has fielded 26 candidates.

The formation of the APP- Alliance Party for Progress – was announced shortly after publishing part 1 of this article. The two parties in the alliance are the PDP led by Reverend Joseph Atherley and the UPP led by attorney-at-law Ms. Lynette Eastmond.  Mr. Atherley has been asked to lead the alliance.

Both leaders are breakaways from the BLP.  Ms. Eastmond made her break in the historic 2018 election and Mr. Atherley, the successful BLP candidate in the St. Michael West constituency, broke with the ruling party subsequent to the 2018 election to assume the title of opposition leader in the just ended parliament.

With but two exceptions, there were no clear details regarding how candidates for the APP have been deployed across the 30 constituencies.  The first exception is the switch of Joseph Atherley from the St. Michael West constituency to the St. Michael Central riding. Mr. Atherley won the St. Michael West seat in 2018.

The other  exception is the Reverend Nigel Newton who is running in the St. Philip North constituency against Michael Lashley of the DLP, Dr. Sonia Browne of the BLP and independent candidate, Mr. Omar Smith.   

Our own intelligence has accounted for at least two other candidates for the APP. These are Bruce Hennis who will once again be running in the St. Philip South constituency and Mr. Shawn Tudor who is the candidate for Christ Church East Central. 

Little is known about the candidates of Solutions Barbados a party led by Grenville Phillips. The party gained moderate press starting back in 2015 when it first decided to contest the upcoming 2018 elections.  It gained 2.7% of the votes cast in 2018, the third largest behind the two major parties (Source: www.caribbeanelections.com)

Projection Problems

On this occasion, we also have hot off the press for reference, a CBC TV panel discussion with Professors Don Marshall and Cynthia Giles of the UWI, Cave Hill and pollster Peter Wickham.

One of the key points surfaced by this panel, and one with which I can easily agree, is that it is very difficult to base on any projections for the 2022 election on the 2018 results.

That election was unique in the history of Barbados elections for two main reasons.

The first and perhaps more important is that the winning party was led by a female, Mia Amour Mottley. Notwithstanding the  fact that the UPP was led by a female, Ms. Mottley had the singular distinction of being the first female to lead a major political party, BLP (Barbados Labour Party).

The second is that  the party went on to make a complete sweep of the polls obtaining a 30-0 result, an unprecedented result in recent Barbados political history.

The 2022 election itself is unique in that it is being called by a government having been in power for just over 39 out of an allotted theoretical maximum of 60 months.  Second, the election notice appears to be the shortest on record. In 2018, the Freundel Stuart administration gave voters 28 days notice. The Mottley government gave 23 days. 

Another reason why the 2022 election is unique is that it comes just over  one and a half months after the government led the country into republic status. That move, which has been lauded by both regional and international media has been regarded as “rushed” by some elements of the population.  Elements of the population will see this election as yet another rush job.

Another issue that makes this election unique is that in its self-imposed final days, the administration has hustled through several pieces of legislation, the most notorious of which has been the Debt Settlement (Arrears) Bill which disadvantages local creditors to the government. We discussed that in an article here.

Finally, the election is occurring in the middle of an industrial dispute with nurses some of whom have not received payment for several months. This rankles because these health care workers represent a sizeable portion of the front-line workers in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic.

Salient Punditry

As is customary in such discussions, the panel’s analysis focused on specific constituencies, particularly St. Philip North, St. Philip West, the St. Michael West seat previously held by the leader of the opposition, Joseph Atherley, Christ Church East and of course the critical seat of St. John. Some attention was also placed on St. Lucy where the President of the DLP, Ms. Verla Depeiza is running.

Two salient points made by the panel are that the election will be fought primarily at the constituency level and on a personality basis. This conclusion is easily supported because none of the parties up to the point of publication has come up with a manifesto.  

From our perspective, the issue for the BLP is defending its short tenure in office and by extension its 2018 manifesto.

At this point in time, the election is looking as a straight fight between the two major parties, the incumbent BLP and the DLP.   

The composition of the next government of the Republic of Barbados will therefore, depend in large measure on whether the electorate is satisfied with the slate of newer candidates on offer by both the DLP and BLP as well as the quality of the campaign both parties will be able to mount in their support at the constituency level. 

Third Party Myopia

While this was an opportune moment for the so-called third parties, they have failed to take heed to criticisms previously offered by a several political scientists and advice offered by the author in his capacity as a marketing specialist.

Barring some miracle, the minor parties, including the APP, will simply be diverting votes from both parties but not nearly enough to give them any win in our first-past-the-post system.

The problem with third parties is that they persist in seeing a national election as a one-time event rather than the offer of “new” product to a market – the electorate – a fact which by its nature, requires a strategic mindset and approach. 

There is nothing fundamentally STRATEGICALLY different about launching a new party compared to launching a new product where “new” can take on a range of meanings.

Consequently, their preparation for the “event” is mostly tactical in that the main concerns are having enough candidates and completion of the required paperwork on nomination day.  For this reason, these parties only begin preparation a month or two before the election as one party member actually “boasted”.

Long-term and strategic matters such as building a party administrative infra-structure, party financing and membership building are regarded as secondary, if not unimportant.   

Therefore, a highly educated, professional and thinking Barbadian electorate is justified in rejecting such parties for the simple reason that if you cannot manage something as small as a party it is highly unlikely that you will be able to manage a relatively larger and more dynamic mixed economy such as Barbados.

As we suggested earlier, most their candidates will probably just split the votes in the constituency in which their candidates are fielded. The so-called uncommitted or floating vote will simply abstain from voting, an event that does not augur wealth for the future of the fledgeling republic.

One can only hope that the third parties finally learn a lesson or two from this snap election.

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Dr. Aldon Tull, the author, is a retired educator who holds a Master of Science in International Marketing and the Doctor of Education. 

He can be reached at editor@barbadosuncensored.com at 246-228-3720 or on Whatsapp at 246-846-3191

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