PM rings election bell

by Shawn Cumberbatch and Donna Sealy

Election officials got the ball rolling tonight when they were dispatched island wide to post notices of the February 21 polling and Nomination Day, which will be next Wednesday. Here officers Haskell Drakes and Everton Henry paste a notice on the door of the District “A” Police Station.
Election officials got the ball rolling tonight when they were dispatched island wide to post notices of the February 21 polling and Nomination Day, which will be next Wednesday. Here officers Haskell Drakes and Everton Henry paste a notice on the door of the District “A” Police Station.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today dared to venture where no other Barbadian leader before him has gone — announcing a general election that will be in the heart of Lent, the most important festival on the Christian calendar.

Weeks of speculation ended today when, in an unusual move, the Barbados Government Information Service, not Stuart, announced that Barbadians would elect their next government on February 21, with candidates of both the Democratic Labour Party and Barbados Labour Party due to file their nomination papers next week Wednesday.

And at the end of a day when it turned out that the only secret about the election announcement was the actual date, the two parties said they were ready and confident about the outcome of next month’s poll.

Additionally, pollster and political scientist Peter Wickham, who noted that the Prime Minister had few options at this late stage, questioned the calling of the election during Lent, and two days after a similar exercise in Grenada.

“General elections will be held in Barbados on Thursday, February 21, and Nomination Day is set for next Wednesday, February 6,” the terse BGIS statement stated.

“The dates were announced today by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who said he had officially notified Governor General, Sir Elliott Belgrave, and the appropriate proclamation duly issued,” it added. From early this morning reports were rife that Stuart had journeyed to Government House for an audience with Sir Elliott and that he would announce the date during what turned out to be the House of Assembly’s final sitting during this term.

This was not the case, however, when the Lower House resumed after its lunch around 2 p.m., with Leader of the House John Boyce moving the adjournment for Parliament to resume next Tuesday.

It was clear that something was amiss, however, as Boyce took some time before he told Speaker Michael Carrington the date, which prompted outgoing St. Michael South East MP, Hamilton Lashley, to deliver his farewell speech. Earlier on, after hearing that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had gone to Government House to officially notify Sir Elliott, members of the media positioned themselves outside of Government House to get a photo. However, there was no sign of him. Tonight DLP General Secretary, George Pilgrim, told Barbados TODAY the team’s election machinery was ready.

He said the party had done the preliminary work for the past couple of months “readying” themselves in the lead up to the announcement of the election date.

“Tomorrow night, we will be on the road at the Bay Street Esplanade. The manifesto is completed and the date for the launch will be announced in due course. The Democratic Labour Party as the party in office is ready to face the electorate of Barbados to give an account of our stewardship.

“Tomorrow night in the Bay Street Esplanade is the start of a journey which we will take Barbadians through. We started in 2008 and we’re now in 2013, the record is clear, the Democratic Labour Party despite trying times has delivered,” Pilgrim said. In turn, Opposition BLP spokesman Mia Mottley mocked Stuart for announcing the election date via BGIS, calling it another demonstration of his lack of leadership and “aversion to speaking to his people”.

The St. Michael North East MP was also confident that her party would win the election, with Barbadians favoring Opposition Leader Owen Arthur to lead them for a fourth time.

“There is a mood over the country that is crying out for hope, and we intend in this election, as the leader (Owen Arthur) said … to give Barbadians reason to believe that just as previous generations had resilience to fight serious and awesome challenges, that we too in this generation can see our way out of this darkness into the light, by having the confidence and the courage to fight hard times, but to do so together,” she said.

Wickham, whose company CADRES recently conducted a poll on Barbados TODAY’s behalf showing Barbadians wanted change and thought Arthur was the best person to lead, said the two major concerns were that there will be an election during Lent for the first time and that it will be immediately after the one in Grenada.

“I question the wisdom of both, but I don’t think that the Lent thing was impossible to avoid bearing in mind the fact that he waited this long. As far as the proximity to the Grenada election is concerned I don’t really know that that’s wise,” Wickham stated.

“Basically it’s difficult to avoid creating a psychological disadvantage. You want to break the cycle and the reality is that the Grenada election looks like its going to end the same way as others, as a loss for the government.”

Lashley, who unlike his departing BLP colleagues Rawle Eastmond (St. James North) and Dr. William Duguid got a chance to say farewell before Parliament was prorogued, said he was “sure all right-thinking Barbadians will return these honourable members of this solemn soil back to this honourable chamber”.

This is the first time Stuart will lead the DLP into a general election, while it is Arthur’s fifth at the helm of the BLP.

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