Barbados elections: A sweeping change

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image Newly elected prime minister and Democratic Labour Party leader David Thompson (Photo: dlpbarbados.org)

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 16, 2008 - The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has wrested the reins of power from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to become the new governing administration of Barbados following that island’s January 15 general election.

 

Decisive win

 

The DLP’s decisive win of 20 out of the 30 House of Assembly seats put an end to the historic attempt by the BLP to become the first party in Barbados’ political history to rule for four consecutive terms of office.

 

Despite succeeding where his party failed, a visibly shaken former Prime Minister Owen Arthur expressed uncertainty about his political future as the poll results unfolded just after midnight Tuesday.

 

“I will discuss that matter with my colleagues before I speak to the public about it,” he said from the steps of his alma mater, the Coleridge & Parry School, following his comfortable win of 3 708 to 1 785 over his cousin, Haynesley Benn in their St Peter constituency.

 

Acknowledging that his party’s defeat was an example of “democracy in action”, Arthur also extended congratulations to the succeeding DLP government.

 

Throughout the election both parties traded accusations that the other had succumbed to bribery and influence in one form or the other.

 

The BLP injected an element of diplomatic intrigue when it accused the DLP of backdoor dealings with rogue state Taiwan, but that failed to resonate with the public in the same way as the home grown issues reiterated by the DLP.

 

DLP campaign

 

Prime Minister-elect David Thompson said in an interview just after midnight Tuesday that he put the success of the DLP’s campaign down to its hammering home three messages that resonated most with the Barbadian people:

  • the cost of living,
  • affordable housing,
  • and the status of the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

He promised to address the cost of living in the budget, which he said would be delivered “shortly”.

 

BLP campaign

 

The BLP ran a campaign largely on the strength of its stewardship over the last 14 years, especially Barbados’ buoyant economic standing and respected international stature.

 

Thompson and his DLP candidates sought to poke holes in the BLP record with charges of mismanagement of public funds totalling over $700 million in cost overruns on various government projects over that tenure.

 

Thompson told the media in his interview that one of the DLP’s first tasks as the new government would be to bring forensic auditing to bear on a number of government projects and statutory corporations that had been questioned by his team when they were in opposition.

 

“The idea of long commissions of enquiry that do not solve anything are not my style. Forensic audits are more clinical, they are more superior in terms of clarity,” Thompson said as he set the tone for his administration.

 

The attorney also extended the olive branch to those in the electorate who voted for the BLP. “Let us let the election subside and get through the process of building a new Barbados in which everybody can play a role regardless of who you supported in this election. We really want to focus on getting our work done and we will need the cooperation of all Barbadians to advance that,” he said.

 

Shock defeat for high profile BLP party members

 

The BLP’s loss saw the shock defeat of some of its more high profile politicians, including at least two who had been tipped to be future leaders of the party at one time or the other – former minister of housing Reginald Farley and former minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office in the ruling BLP, Clyde Mascoll. Mascoll himself made history in 2007 when he became the first leader of a political party in Barbados to cross the floor after a very public falling out with the DLP in which he accused new leader David Thompson and others in the party of sabotaging his political career.

 

Mascoll’s St Michael North West battle was one of the most closely watched of this election as the pundits and public alike waited to see if voters in that district would pick personality over party this time around. In the end, party allegiance won out and DLP general secretary and trade specialist Chris Sinckler pipped the former University of the West Indies economics lecturer to take that urban seat for the DLP.

 

CADRES poll confirmed by results

 

The DLP’s win confirmed the predictions of the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) published in the local Press last Friday that there would be a swing against the ruling BLP Government.

 

This, said CADRES director Peter Wickham at the time, could guarantee the DLP at least 20 seats this time around. Despite attempts by the BLP to discredit the poll after its results were released, and conflicting results from a Cave Hill Associates Polling Organisation (CHAPO) poll that predicted the BLP winning through seizing between 16 and 20 seats, the CADRES results were conclusively borne out by the voters.

 

This ballot also sees the Barbadian electorate join a regional momentum that has seen four incumbent political parties within CARICOM fail hold on to power for another term within the last 13 months.

 

The first to fall was the Kenny Anthony-led St Lucia Labour Party, which lost in its bid for a third term to the United Workers Party on December 11, 2006.

 

The next defeat came in the Bahamas general election in May 2007 when Perry Christie’s Progressive Liberal Party went under to the Hubert Ingraham-led Free National Movement after only one term in office.

 

The last power shift came in Jamaica in September 2007 when the ruling People’s National Party fell to the Jamaica Labour Party in its attempt to earn an unprecedented fifth term in power.

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