Barbados is not immune to the anti-incumbent fever sweeping the region

Alicia Nicholls

Another one bites the dust!  The Peoples National Party (PNP) has won the Jamaica elections, defeating the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) by 41-22 seats. Former Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, has gotten the nod of approval from the Jamaican people and adds another female face to the CARICOM Heads of Government.

There is no doubt that by tomorrow this latest defeat of another one-term incumbent government in the region is going to set the call-in programmes in Barbados ablaze, and everyone with an opinion is going to be speculating on what if anything this latest defeat means for the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration. My take on it is that Barbados is not immune to the anti-incumbent fever stirring in the region.

Indeed,these are interesting times in our political landscape. I do not even plan on delving into the letter debacle or so-called attempted coup within the DLP, which to my mind was completely blown out of proportion. Putting that aside, strong parallels have been drawn by many political pundits between the election in St Lucia and what they believe to be similar political conditions in Barbados. In the St. Lucia election, the one-term Stephenson King administration was defeated by the St. Lucia Labour Party led by then former Prime Minister Kenny Anthony. Like Mr. King in St. Lucia after the death of Prime Minister John Compton, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart assumed office following the unfortunate death in office of Prime Minister David Thompson from pancreatic cancer last year. Although the circumstances of Mr. Andrew Holness’ rise to power in Jamaica differs from in St Lucia and Barbados, many will rightly see the Jamaica election as further cause for the DLP to be worried.

It is worth noting that at the time when Mr. Stuart became Prime Minister, some learned pundits argued that Mr. Stuart should have sought his ‘own mandate’ from the people. I disagreed with that argument then and still do for two main reasons. First, as prime  ministers are not directly elected, mandates are given to a party, not to a party leader. The Barbadian electorate gave a mandate to the DLP in 2008, which logically extends to Mr. Stuart whether or not he was  party leader at the time. Second, elections are expensive undertakings and I do not think spending money on another election so soon after the last would have been justified, especially in these harsh economic times.

What the elections in St. Lucia and now Jamaica make clear is that no government is immune to the anti-incumbent fever sweeping through the region. In two-party systems like ours in most of the Commonwealth Caribbean, third parties have little if any chance of winning or making a real impact on election results. Therefore, voters like myself are stuck with and taking a hard look at the limited political options before us. If this Government wants to inoculate itself from the anti-incumbent fever and the one-term plague, it has to listen to the people. It is not just about colourful manifestos and pretty campaign speeches. We want real ideas and a clear and cogent vision and plan of action for fostering development and prosperity for all Barbadians. As far as I am concerned, in these upcoming elections, whenever they are called, both political parties (DLP and BLP) have to come good if either gets my vote.

Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her by email and  follow her on Twitter at @licylaw.

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