It all comes back down to leadership
Given the prominence of Barbadians on the campaign trail in Dominica in the run-up to the December 8 general election there, it would be remiss of us not to ponder the possible lessons for our own political scenario.
Just as Barbadians re-elected Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 2013, bucking the winds of change sweeping several Caribbean incumbents from office, Dominicans yesterday opted to stick with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and the Dominica Labour Party for another five years.
The outcome, correctly predicted by Barbadian pollster and political scientist Peter Wickham, saw Mr Skerrit securing 15 of the 21 seats at stake, losing only three of the 18 he had won in the 2009 election. The Opposition United Workers Party, led by first-timer Lennox Linton, failed to woo the Dominican populace with its slogan Change We Must, though Mr Linton managed to strengthen the party’s presence in the Dominica Parliament by three seats –– winning a total of six, including his, previously held by former prime minister Edison James.
Should this result on its own be of any comfort to the Freundel Stuart administration? We submit that such contentment would be foolhardy, and the Democratic Labour Party would be better off working urgently and diligently to rectify the several national crises we are facing as a nation and diminishing the anxiety these issues are causing the electorate.
It would seem the only practical way of solidifying its position with Barbadian voters Barbadian for a chance at third term in office.
The campaign slogan of the Dominica Labour Party in Roseau –– Leadership Is Everything –– in all the circumstances is quite telling. Today’s voter is demanding much more from politicians than their rhetoric. Voters want to see those whom they elect to high office, with that powerful X, involved and on the ball. And, even more so, the party leader must be in the midst of the people, articulating what we would choose to believe are honest messages of hope, along with a strong vision to take the country forward.
A look back at the happenings on the Dominican campaign trail shows a very involved Skerrit. While we stay clear of endorsing or challenging the veracity of his statements or showings on the political platform, we cannot help but consider that his strong presence with ordinary Dominicans before and during the elections must have helped to keep the scales in his favour.
In fact, in the CADRES poll, Dominicans gave Mr Skerrit a score of 6.4 for leadership, and 63 per cent of those surveyed indicated he was the preferred choice for leader compared to 37 per cent for his political opponent. Silence is hardly golden for political leaders. This business of appearing to take the lead during an election campaign and then retreating to the shadows after winning the top prize is unacceptable, and deserves to be treated as such by voters.
Barbadians are anxious for a positive word –– indeed any word –– from their democratically elected leader after a year of virtually no economic growth, continued job losses and more taxes.
Another clue to Mr Skerrit’s success may also lie in the island’s state of affairs. The CADRES poll indicated that Dominicans were most concerned about the cost of living and joblessness. The Dominican economy appears to have been holding its own; and a visit to the island would show major development, infrastructurally and otherwise.
In Barbados, growing for us have been financial and health care challenges at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, garbage pile-ups in country and town, and the ever-rising cost of living. Barbadians are crying out for relief.
While we accept there’s no magic wand to solve our economic woes, surely simple communication, a well articulated vision could go a long way in engendering confidence in private life and business, possibly jump-starting societal activity.
The Skerrit administration did not escaped unscathed from yesterday’s poll, since it lost three seats to the other side. Clearly the ruling party must yet take stock, learn from its past mistakes, and most of all avoid complacency.
We expect the opposition United Workers Party will accept the results and move on to take up the task of monitoring how the people’s business is conducted. Our Opposition Barbados Labour Party would do well to note that voters are in search of answers and results, and that no election victory will be any guaranteed walkover.
Barbadians, like the Dominicans, will opt for a united party that sends a clear message leadership is indeed everything.