]by Shawn Cumberbatch
Barbadian voters will go to sleep tonight with campaign speeches, songs and images in their heads and rise in the morning with the future of their country in their hands.
Following three weeks of vigorous and controversial campaigning between the island’s two main political institutions, the incumbent Democratic Labour Party and the opposing Barbados Labour Party, all is in place for tomorrow’s potentially historic general election.
Nearly a quarter of a million registered electors, most of them women, will vote for 30 candidates each from the DLP and BLP, and eight others, four independents, two from the People’s Democratic Congress, one from Kingdom Government of Barbados, and one from Bajan Free Party, information from the Electoral and Boundaries Commission stated.
The register of electors released this evening by the EBC said there were 249,024 Barbadians eligible to vote, 5,523 more than the 2008 general election. This included 119,121 men, and 129,903 women.
While two recent CADRES public opinion polls indicated that the BLP was likely to be returned to office, today both the DLP and BLP voiced confidence the spoils would be theirs, as they have been for the entirety of the campaign.
Massive final rallies
They are both holding massive final rallies tonight – Independence Square for the Dems and Bay Street Esplanade for the Bees, where leaders Freundel Stuart and Owen Arthur and several of their candidates will deliver closing arguments to voters.
Today, EBC Chairman Owen Owen Estwick also said that organisation was ready to ensure tomorrow’s poll was typically smooth and free from contention.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he said “essentials” such as the 100 yard restricted areas had already been marked with white paint, and any necessary signage at polling stations installed.
“More importantly we are in the process of receiving from the office the ballot papers for which they (officers) will now take responsibility,” he said.
“Our preparation activity has been an ongoing in the office and we will be ready to declare the polls open tomorrow so we have basically put everything in place.
“There are still some statutory instruments that are still to be signed by me, but arrangements are being made for them to go through a period of vetting, following which I will do the necessary signing and then we will contact the printery and get the gazetting of anything that needs to be gazetted in place.
“So we are working, we are very active, and there is nothing more we can do than to do the job as required by the law. I have no reason to believe that we will not have a smooth election,” he said.
Estwick added that electoral officials expected Barbadians to conduct themselves well as they usually did and to conform with the law, including not wearing party colours or trying to sway individuals to vote in a particular way.
DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim said the party was ready for polling day and confident of victory.
“I am satisfied that the Democratic Labour Party has been and continues to be prepared for this general election. It is really an all out effort in terms of ensuring that at the call of the poll being opened tomorrow that all systems are go,” he said.
Team BLP, in a notice to its members and supporters, was also expecting victory, as it urged a massive mobilisation of voters.
“The BLP has a plan – our Vision for a Better Tomorrow – to create jobs and immediately lower the cost of living. We have the experience, the ideas and the passion to turn this economy around,” the party said in an emailed message.
“In the end, the choice tomorrow is one between more of the same and a team with the ideas, passion and experience to turn our economy around, create jobs and make sure that you have a little more money in your pocket.”
Ready for general election
Police public relations officer, Inspector David Welch, said lawmen were ready for the general election and “will be deployed in full force for tonight’s political meetings and for polling day to ensure the smooth running of the activities and to ensure the safety of the public”.
“All leave have been recalled to ensure that there is adequate manpower for tonight and tomorrow, and effectively to continue to police Barbados. Members of the island constabulary and some from the Government Security Guards will be incorporated into working alongside police officers,” he said.
Ahead of tonight’s final rallies DLP, BLP and the handful of independent candidates were visible in the 30 constituencies as they tried to convince voters they were the right choice. Barbados’ last general election was held on January 15, 2008, when the then David Thompson-led DLP won 20 parliamentary seats to the BLP’s 10.
If the DLP loses this time it would be the first time a party was dumped after one term in office, while a BLP victory would be a triumphant return to government for former three term prime minister Arthur.