Dems do it again!
by Shawn Cumberbatch
This was a cliffhanger, a bruising general election battle the likes of which generations of Barbadians had never witnessed.
And at the end of it all an embattled Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was the one savouring a hard fought preliminary 16 seats to 13 victory, with a recount underway to determe the winner of the remaining St. Michael South East constituency.
Stuart and his DLP defied the pollsters and pundits’ predictions of their demise, winning a second term in office and handing former Prime Minister Owen Arthur his second successive electoral defeat.
Stuart savoured the historic win before hundreds of cheering supporters at the DLP’s George Street, St. Michael headquarters, as a visibly surprised Arthur officially conceded at the BLP’s Roebuck Street headquarters.
In the aftermath of a victory that at one stage during the night many thought would have ended in a hung parliament and potential constitutional crisis, he said there was much hard work ahead, as Barbados was still in the middle financial times.
And despite complaining about some negative tactics he said had been used by the opposition in its attempt to win the election, Stuart told supporters revenge was not on his agenda.
“The general election is behind us and the time has come for us to govern again,” he said.
“We are not going to embark on the process of governing with any feelings of revenge or bitterness or malice of any kind, we are democratic not only because we belong to the Democratic Labour Party, but also because we believe in the freely expressed will of the people of this country.
“And therefore in spite of the fact that we were maligned, in spite of the fact that false statements were made about us, in spite of the fact that we were so often misrepresented, and misrepresented intentionally, we go back to govern in a spirit of forgiveness, putting behind us all that happened during the last cmapaign and putting before us the interests of the people of Barbados.”
He therefore called on Dems and Barbadians generally to “forget now the things that are behind and let us all press forward to the things that are before”.
“There are many challenges which this country continues to face and we cannot meet these challenges in circumstances where we allow ourselves to be distracted by petty criticisms, or by the unfortunate tendency of some people not to see any good in us at all,” he stated.
“We have to focus now on how best we can make the lives of the people of Barbados better, we have to focus on how best, within the context of this continuing crisis, we can touch and heal those people who are feeling its effects most acutely, and I call on all of you to put your hands to the plow and let us get on with the job of making Barbados a better place.”
Arthur, who was seeking to become Prime Minister for a fourth time, was visibly disappointed, but acknowledged that “the people have spoken and we will be gracious considering that a new government has been elected”.
“We would have wished if the result had been otherwise, this has been a challenging and very tough election, but the people have spoken and we accept,” he said at Grantley Adams House.
“It was always going to be a very challenging election for the Labour Party to win.”
Arthur said the BLP was “up against a number of factors that really made it an uphill task”, but declined to go into specifics, saying he did not want to spoil the moment.
He also identified the fact that the party had 13 new candidates as a handicap, considering this group “had very low recognition”. The BLP leader also said while there were some narrow victories it was unlikely that the party would contest them.
Early in the night of vote counting across Barbados there was no indication that the night would end on the note it did.
It was business as usual when the BLP’s Mia Mottley won her St. Michael North East seat, and similarly when the DLP’s Mara Thompson was victorious in the St. John seat she first won in the January 2011 by-election. But as box after box was counted and constituency after constituency declared, it became clear that this was no ordinary election.
At one stage it looked like a Bees victory, followed by a tie, before the Dems crossed the finish line when Adriel Brathwaite won the St. Philip South seat he first held in 2008.
With such a narrow majority it means that Stuart’s mandate will be difficult to implement without BLP support in the House of Assembly, especially on matters requiring a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
As he celebrated the win, Stuart said its achievement was in defiance of Barbados’ sayers, soothsayers, fortune tellers, diviners, and obeah men.
“We are here tonight celebrating because this organisation during the last five years touched actual lives by its policies and by its programmes and we were therefore able to appeal to actual people, not any sample of the population, but to the population itself, and the population responded suitably and that is why we are here tonight,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org