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Election conduct

The term “silly season” is generally associated with the period that starts with the call of a general election, and terminates with the polling day, when the electorate goes to the polls to elect a government to manage the affairs of a country. On Thursday, February 21, it will be the turn of Barbadians to go the polls to elect a new government for the five year period, 2013 – 2018.

In the first quarter of 2013, the election fever rides high within the Caribbean region. Elections have already been held in Tobago and Nevis, while Grenadians are preparing to go to the polls. In the silly season it is not unusual to have uncomplimentary and disparaging comments, as well as insults being made by candidates against each other.

Party supporters on the other hand engage themselves in all kinds of unpleasant activities, including name calling, gossip and the spreading of rumours. One trade mark of the silly season is that accusations are known to fly left, right and centre. All this is rather unbecoming and unfortunate.

It is about time that the electorate demand better of the candidates on both sides of the political divide. It certainly would not get any better if the electorate encourages and engages in the same unacceptable behaviour.

In general elections across the Caribbean, the issue of a code of conduct is usually promoted by one of the political parties. In spite of this, the subsequent behaviour of politicians on the campaign trail and on the political platforms, leave much to be desired.

As an electorate makes its mind up on which political party should form the next government, the decision of the populace should be guided by the best plans and strategies the respective political parties identify to deal with the issues of the day. It is highly unlikely that partisan loyalty or individual preference for a political party or candidate will ever be removed.

However, politicians are advised that they should never ignore the power of the electorate. They are also well advised to pay critical attention to the needs of the labour force. In a small society like Barbados with a population of 275,000 souls and a labour force of approximately 144,000 persons, it does not take much to deduce where the real power and influence lies.

Politicians in Barbados who tend to ignore this can best be described as being short sighted. If the alignment of political parties and trade unions was practised in Barbados as it is the case in the United States, maybe then local politicians would be in a position to breathe easier.

In a political campaign, it is expected that the issues of the day would be seriously addressed. The quality of presentation on the platform is therefore what matters most of all. If we reduce political meetings to nothing more than entertainment packages, then politicians on both sides of the political divide can tell themselves that they have fallen way short of the mark.

It should be of concern to local politicians if they have to resort to engaging the services of local entertainers to perform prior to the start of a political meeting, as a means of attracting a crowd; and particularly so, young people. Don’t be fooled that this side attraction would translate itself into votes for either of the parties.

Invariably, the young people will go wherever there is a free party, while others who are not so young at heart, will use it as an occasion to socialise.

It can be surmised that without the entertainers, the political parties may be facing an uphill struggle to capture the attention of the public at their political mass meetings. Maybe the actions of the politicians need to change, so as to improve upon the negative perceptions that both young and old alike seemingly have of them.

Regardless of how individuals may feel about the politicians, Barbadians who are eligible to vote should make use of this right and privilege they have. However, before going to the polls, the working class people must demand answers from the political parties of how they plan to address the issues of the day; namely job creation, improving the economy and quality of life, and actions to be taken to maintain, protect and improve the social services offered to the populace.

Our politicians must remain responsible, and at all times exercise a sense of judgment. Take for example the huge sums of money spent on supporting a political campaign. Do politicians stop to think about how the working class people, particularly the most vulnerable and unemployed who are feeling the pinch of extreme poverty when all this money is floating around during and after the elections, while they continue to experience hardship?

As Barbadian politicians face the electorate, they should be careful that the words of calypsonian, Gabby, of “Politicians meeking mock sport at we”, do not come back to haunt them.

* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.

Visit our Website: www.regionalmanagementservicesinc

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