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The real power

There are some who believe, rightly or wrongly, that election results are seldom about the “promise” shown by an opposition party; but most often they are a referendum on the party in power — at least up to the day of voting.

If that is the case, it is left to be seen if the attack mode of the Democratic Labour Party on the platform paid off, or if their time would have been better spent defending/explaining the performance and linking it directly to what they plan to do over the next five years.

But for all intents and purposes the point is now moot, since come 6 a.m. tomorrow almost 250,000 Barbadians will start their journey to polling stations around the island to cast their ballots and we suspect that some time between 11 p.m. and midnight it should be clear who will occupy Bay Street for the next five years.

Last night though, as suggested by pollster and political scientist Peter Wickham, should at least have caused Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to pause, even if for the slightest of moments, to ponder whether events in Grenada will in any way be mirrored here tomorrow night.

Well before 10 o’clock it was absolutely clear that what was predicted in Grenada was coming true — that the National Democratic Congress of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas was losing the election. What was not anticipated was that the last opposition — Dr. Keith Mitchell’s New National Party would have taken all 15 seats in the parliament.

Given the track record of the NDC and the absolutely obstinate stance of Thomas on a host of issues, while the country’s economy and its people literally struggled, there can be no doubt that Grenadians voted to send a message to their leaders more so than to embrace Mitchell, himself a former prime minister.

It ought to be a reminder to all our politicians that while they may behave as though they hold “power”, in a functioning democracy it is really the people who are in charge.

On the face of it, it is a dangerous situation when there is no viable opposition in a country, but the will of the people must be respected, especially when they collectively feel to urge to speak in such strong terms.

Is such an outcome likely here. We say absolutely not. Here’s how Wickham summed it up for us: “I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of having a general election in Barbados so close to the one in Grenada, especially since the CADRES poll demonstrated that the same thing was likely to happen in both instances and I think that you essentially now have a problem, certainly Freundel Stuart has a problem, where he is looking at a defeat of a neighbour, who was in a very similar position to him. “They have a similar leadership style, their political personalities are very similar and the more important thing for me is that the weakness of the governments in terms of popular support and the swing needed to change them is almost identical in Grenada and Barbados, so I think that this is a very ominous sign for Prime Minister Stuart. “I certainly don’t believe that he will lose all of the seats, but I think that the psychological impact of this is very, very profound.” Given the results of recent public opinion polls here, and provided the election day machinery is fully and effectively mobilised by the BLP and DLP, there is some probability of a near-even distribution of seats in the new House of Assembly, with the Bees in lead position.

Such an outcome could lead to a most robust and lively Parliament — perhaps so full of energy that the legislative programme of the ruling party could face unprecedented pressure.

However, all of this is speculation — in 24 hours it, hopefully, will all be history.

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