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Barbados Uncensored

Beyond the News, Inside the Issues

Barbados 2022 General Election Results and the Road Ahead

Jan 20, 2022

Lightning has once again struck the Barbados parliament leaving Mia Amor Mottley with another clean sweep of the seats in the 30 member House of Assembly and the prime ministership once more firmly in her grasp. 

Not even the usual political pundits foresaw a complete sweep of the polls by the BLP again.  The prognosticated outcome was a reduced majority in parliament. 

Opposition leader in the just dissolved parliament, Bishop Joseph Atherley, was not reelected, even though he had switched from running in the St. Michael West seat which he won under the BLP banner in 2018, to running ran in St Michael Central.  Atherley had hurriedly formed the APP (Alliance Party for Progress) with Lynette Eastmond’s UPP and his own PDP to contest the 2022 election.

In what will definitely now be billed as a political master-stroke, Ms. Mottley called a snap election December 27, the day after Boxing Day, giving political parties, the electorate and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) twenty-three days to prepare for elections which many felt would have come later in 2022 at the earliest.

Constitutionally, Ms. Mottley had until early 2023 to call an election in a country, now a newly minted republic, where there is no fixed election date.  She elected, however, to stage a political blitzkrieg to achieve a clear mandate to run the government after being challenged twice by parliamentary colleagues as we explained in  previous article posted here.

The victory will also be seen as a vindication of her IMF-led austerity programme and a repudiation of the critics of her moving the country to republic status less than two months ago on 30 November, 2021. The move was challenged by the leader of Solutions Barbados party, Grenville Phillips, but was subsequently dismissed by the High Court on 24 November. 

The victory also comes against a last minute request to the High Court to halt the elections by leader of the Barbados Sovereignty Party, Philip Catlyn.  In a ruling made late on Tuesday night, just hours before election day, that request was denied by High Court Judge Cicely Chase, who argued that an election court and not the high court was the appropriate jurisdiction to hear the case filed by the claimant.

So on election day 19 January, the electorate repeated the feat of 24 May 2018 by giving all 30 seats to Barbados Labour Party.   Ms. Mottley will now, justifiably so, see this as an resounding mandate to continue the policies and programmes which she instituted since 2018 with the engagement of an IMF stabilization programme, one of the planks of her campaign back then. 

Democracy at Risk

While members and supporters of the BLP will feel proud and celebrate the party’s victory, one has to wonder what price democracy will pay for this achievement.  Is it a victory for the country or for the party?

While we await the official results, it would appear that the low voter turnout that was projected has materialized.  As the chart shows, voter turnout has been declining steadily in Barbados since 1971. 

The universal right to vote, commonly referred to as “universal adult suffrage”, was first given to Barbados in 1951 when the first general election held.  Anyone 18 years and over can vote in a general election in the country.

In the person of Joseph Atherley, Barbadians had had some semblance of opposition in the Lower House up to the calling of elections, even though that position was obtained by his defection from the ruling BLP party. 

Barbados has a two chamber parliament with 30 seats for elected members in the Lower House and 21 seats for nominated members in the Upper House or Senate.

Diagnosing the Results

Prior to the election, some level of voter disillusionment was expressed across social media. Some openly declared that they were not going to vote. Apparently that has worked to the BLP’s advantage.

But the low over turnout may also be due to fears induced by the pandemic in general and the omicron variant of the Sars-2 virus in particular which started to spread across the world towards the end of 2021.  That prediction was made by several of the political pundits, notably retired political scientist, Dr. George Bell.

The general lack of preparation of the main party the Democratic Labour Party  and the other so-called third parties may also be a contributing factor. 

Of course, all of this is only speculation. Like most things in Barbados, conjecture rather than facts tends to form the basis for decisions and assessments. Barbados Uncensored will be deploying its research system to try to understand what factors caused the low voter turnout and the manifest results.   In so doing, it will try to build on its speedily assembled short election survey whose results can be found here.

Going Forward

There are obviously hard lessons to be learned from the 2022 election results. There are serious lessons for the Democratic Labour Party led by Verla DePeiza. Even with twenty-six fresh-faced candidates, presumably untainted by the fallout from the last DLP administration, it has suffered a second blanketing thus leaving the country without an opposition.   

There are even harder lessons for the so-called “third-parties” which still seem to think that they can prepare for an election a few months before it is called and whose candidates again will lose their deposits.

Yesterday’s election result means that going forward, Barbadians will have to learn a lot more about their democratic rights, how to exercise them and how to organize among themselves to resist potential tyranny. They will need to be twice as vigilant as before, pandemic or no pandemic.

In a recent unofficial think-tank Zoom meeting, retired journalist David Ellis made the point that Barbadians always seem to be looking for a Messiah.  In Mia Mottely, it seems that a segment of the population has found such a Messiah. Time will tell.

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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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