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Election certainty

Our legislators both in the Lower and Upper Chambers of Parliament have served this nation well.

Since Independence those who have graced those halls and sought to bring equity, justice and prosperity to Barbadian citizens have done so to such an extent that this country’s record of social stability is the envy of many.

Naturally, despite our Independence, many of our laws still reflect the close relationship with and influence of our former coloniser, Great Britain.

But perhaps it is time that our legislators and power brokers turn their attention from the “motherland” and borrow from the United States a model that has served that country well.

Though there may be no guarantees in every scenario, the introduction of the model would eliminate the need for speculation, could lessen dubious political manoeuverings, and in some instances, expose the sincerity or insincerity of those whose service to country and communities is often timed for self-serving purposes.

We have had former Prime Minister Owen Arthur having “conversations with himself” in the middle of the night. We have heard Prime Minister Freundel Stuart state on two occasions that he has no clue about a decision that could be of significant import for the immediate and long-term future of Barbados.

In 1845 the United States Congress introduced legislation which established that the day for presidential elections would be every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The reason for this particular timing was basically to ensure that the election would never be held on All Saints Day which is November 1 and a significant Catholic holy day.

As structured the earliest possible day for the vote was November 2 and the latest was November 8. A general election in any society is a vital part of the governance process. Since Government is really a continuum, there should be no advantage in the calling of a general election for a government in power, or for that matter, disadvantage for a government in waiting.

Neither should the calling of a general election be left up to the whim and fancy of any individual, whether he speaks in clear tones to himself nocturnally or confesses to knowing nothing about anything. Our Constitution has already established

that elections should be held every five years, or in circumstances that could be played out before our very eyes as the months progress – five years and a bit. But we need to look at going even further.

There have been instances within the Caribbean, and indeed in Great Britain, of Prime Ministers calling early elections for strategic reasons that could have their genesis in disillusionment with their own leadership or their party, or a situation of carpe diem. We have also had occasions where elections have been delayed because of the failure to fulfil stated mandates or the expectation that some major undertaking in waiting could add to the appeal of what a party intends to present to sell itself to the electorate.

These are all legitimate political machinations. But democracy and the holding of a general election are greater principals than a prime minister or president. In essence, they are so important to the governance of a people that there should be complete certainty of every aspect associated with the holding of a general election.

This is a concept that has been previously discussed in our political corridors without going beyond that phase. Perhaps, as Prime Minister Stuart feigns ignorance on the issue, or is genuinely clueless as to when he will call elections, he could instead etch his name even further into this country’s history by championing the process of bringing even greater certainty than already exists about the general election process.

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