An election dry run for Barbados?

In the lively discussion in Barbados concerning the recent St Lucia general election, especially the brief but controversial presence of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and the participation of Barbados Labour Party (BLP)-affiliated political consultants in the victorious campaign of the United Workers Party (UWP), a most salient point was somehow overlooked.

It has to do with the next Barbados general election which, constitutionally speaking, is a close one and a half years away. If the same forces which fought on the side of Allen Chastanet’s UWP to defeat Dr Kenny Anthony’s St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) are similarly arrayed against the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), the Dems’ goose will be well cooked, barring some unlikely miraculous intervention.

Perhaps it was the tacit realization that the St Lucia election, for all practical purposes, represented a sort of dress rehearsal for the looming DLP vs BLP contest that was a source of obvious discomfort for DLP sympathizers. Their anxieties were reflected, for example, in various comments on the airwaves that stemmed more from emotional reaction than the pragmatic application of reason.

That the UWP win was achieved against considerable odds is obviously a big confidence booster for the BLP-aligned strategists. This outcome was hardly ever predicted. A poll by Peter Wickham’s CADRES determined the race was too close to call, though it indicated the UWP was gaining ground on the SLP. An SLP-commissioned poll by Jamaican pollster Don Anderson predicted an SLP re-election with the same 11-6 seat parliamentary majority –– which is exactly what the UWP ended up getting.

So what could have attributed to the SLP’s defeat? In my view, three factors: a misreading by the SLP of the extent to which Dr Anthony’s popularity was slipping, SLP overconfidence which could have caused an underestimation of the UWP challenge and, lastly, alleged vote buying.

There were various reports of people being paid to vote UWP in certain constituencies. If these reports can be substantiated, then it means on the critical field of battle, the SLP was outgunned by money, an insidious practice which seems to be becoming more prevalent in Caribbean elections.

The political conditions which existed in St Lucia, however, were fundamentally different from what obtains in Barbados. Two opinion polls within the last year clearly suggested that the odds of being re-elected are considerably stacked against the Freundel Stuart-led DLP. Without access to comparable political management expertise as the BLP, the Dems will find themselves in a highly disadvantageous position entering the fray to confront the same group of determined, battle-hardened veterans who helped to deliver victory for the UWP.

From all indications, the BLP strategy team is likely to be led by Hartley Henry, a seasoned campaigner who had a pivotal role on the Chastanet team. From past affiliation, he would have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the DLP, especially in relation to their organizational capacity for fighting elections. Unless the Dems can source comparable expertise which is not available in-house, to the best of my knowledge, their campaign firepower will be no effective match for the BLP’s.

Besides, it is relatively easy to defeat the DLP, as Henry would know. Its biggest problem is the inherent lack of a strong fighting spirit, a tendency to give up easily in the face of adversity, and its general state of disorganization. Seen from this angle, the Dems really did not win the last election. Victory was handed to them by the BLP which failed to effectively defend Owen Arthur, its then leader, when he came under sustained DLP attack during the campaign.

Conditions today on the field of battle, which is the collective mind of Barbadian voters, are fundamentally different than in 2013. There is, for example, considerably more disenchantment with the DLP because of the harshness of its economic policies following the last general election. Actions were taken which Barbadians were led to believe would never happen. It seems, however, that the Dems are looking to use the same 2013 strategy of turning the election into a referendum on Miss Mottley’s suitability to be Prime Minister as they did with Mr Arthur in 2013.

This strategy is most likely to backfire because the average struggling Barbadian is primarily interested in hearing how the next Government will ease the heavy burden of daily living to which the Dems have substantially contributed. Generally speaking, elections are not so much about voting in an Opposition but rather voting out a Government which, for various reasons, has become an irritant to the vast majority of voters. In these circumstances, voters are not really interested in who will be the replacement –– they will deal with that afterwards. Their primary motivation is to vote out the Government which they consider to be the source of their problems.

This is the dilemma facing the DLP going into the next election, never mind that the economy is finally showing encouraging signs of recovery after being in the doldrums for the past seven years. The fact of the matter is that between now and the announcement of the election date, the DLP is highly unlikely to regain the significant ground which it lost since 2013 in terms of public confidence and credibility over its management of a painful economic crisis.

After serving three terms as prime minister, Dr Anthony is preparing for life beyond electoral politics. He will always have his detractors –– that is the nature of politics –– but history, I believe, will be kind to him because he leaves a legacy which will be greatly appreciated by future generations. He will be regarded as the great modernizer who, building on the foundation left by Sir John Compton, took St Lucia to the next critical stage of development, borrowing in some instances from the Barbados model.

I was honoured, from Dr Anthony’s election for the first time in the 1997 SLP landslide 16-1 seat victory, to have participated at various times in this eventful journey. What particularly excited me, as a Barbadian, was the SLP’s achievement of universal secondary education during its second term from 2001 to 2006.

Barbados, with Sir James Tudor as Minister of Education, achieved this feat in 1962. It was a significant achievement for St Lucia that meant an end to the shift system where some students could only attend school for half-day to permit others to have the other half due to a shortage of space.

Dr Anthony also modernized the health sector, laying the groundwork for the construction of new general and psychiatric hospitals. He upgraded the national road network by constructing, among other things, the modern Soufriere to Vieux Fort Highway. He was also instrumental in introducing financial services as a new sector and firmly establishing tourism as the bread and butter industry following the demise of bananas under pressure from global trade liberalization.

Electoral politics exposes office holders to a range of occupational risks. There is one in particular which I always emphasize to politicians who are humble enough to listen. It is that in a democratic system where one’s tenure in office depends entirely on the whims and fancies of fickle voters, today’s hero can easily become tomorrow’s villain, never mind the good he or she may have done.

Dr Anthony was always fully conscious of this harsh reality. Which explains why, despite the obvious disappointment, he has accepted defeat with such dignity and grace. The biggest challenge for the new UWP administration is satisfying the high public expectations which were undoubtedly fuelled by its promises. Failure to deliver could very well see the Chastanet administration becoming St Lucia’s third consecutive one-term government.

(Reudon Eversley is a political strategist, strategic communication specialist and long-standing journalist. Email

10 Responses to An election dry run for Barbados?

  1. Carson C Cadogan June 17, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    It is dangerous to count your chickens before they are hatched. And by the way Peter Wickham’s “poll” was dead wrong again.


  2. BaJan boy June 17, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Carson C Cadogan is a senseless basher,how could he conclude Wickham’s poll to be wrong when he said because of the closeness of a number of seats the election was too close to call but the UWP was gaining ground. If the iliterate man would stop criticizing his own how about the Jamaican who had it 11 to 6 SLP sure you thought he was correct.
    Reudon thos too highly intellectual for him to understand . The chickens are all hatched because nobody want condescending,poor great who now get some money PM to thkae this country any further down the drain. You saw only today Dr. Spearman said they this harsh economic situation where bajans cannot even afford medication is killing them. The few Dems like him who are enjoying the remains of Thompson fatted calf cannot continue to fight for power whilst the others suffer. Bajans would have to be real jackasses to vote for these disrespectful,dishonest,indifferent losers again

    • Carson C Cadogan June 19, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Peter Wickham said that it was too close to call.

      This shows that he failed to see the big swing against Kenny Anthony, if his so called poll was scientific as he likes to fool some of us with, me not included, he would not have missed that.

      But his guesstimate poll was wrong as usual. He probably went into Castries and asked two people who they thought would win the elections, and one said UWP and the other said SLP to him, hence his poll results.

  3. Sherlock Holmes. June 17, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    It is truly sad that someone can call someone illiterate and just cannot spell the word, this is twice now Bajan BOY!!! And yes Peter Wickham did say that the poll was too close to call, you are going to get sued before you are finished with the nonsense you constantly post here, you are reckless in your mouthings concerning people in this forum,before long you are going to see first hand the mechanics of the misuse of the computer act,trust me it is only a matter of time. You simply do not the have the commonsense to temper your posits and be creative in your writing to get over strong points, you are constantly overstepping the crease and before long you are going to be stumped and the umpire will have no choice but to give you out.

  4. Basil Graham June 19, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Come on peoples, let us all agree to disagree, Peter Wickham cannot be seen as wrong because he said that the election was too close to call, but, the UWP was GAINING GROUND, which obviously mean that an eventual 11-6 victory for the UWP proves that Peter Wickham’s call was okay. If he had said that it was too close to call and nothing else then he would be wrong, but he went on too say the UWP was gaining ground, so Wickham is good to go, so come on carson c cadougan and sherlock holmes, let us agree to disagree.

  5. Sherlock Holmes. June 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Basil i must say that your comments are always well received from my stand point, but here’s the thing Peter Wickham has lost confidence in his own self, i have detected this from his last outings, he now uses the too close to call statement as a means of erring on the side of caution,he is very unsure of his craft since his two poll fiasco in 2013,and Basil as you stated we will agree to disagree, but that is how i am saying it .What i also found interesting is the circumstance where Tennyson Joseph was very critical of him and his polls on a live radio talk show which was apparently hosted on a St Lucian radio station,Joseph had apparently made his revelations on the said program about a week before the date of the general election and his comments were not very critical of Wickham and i am very sure that Wickham was aware of the Joseph’s comment but for some reason he did not have the fortitude to confront or to respond to Joseph directly after the statements were made but sought to castigate Joseph only after the election results ,does that sounds like a man who is confident in his own craft Basil? Especially one who takes pleasure in openly cussing the Prime Minister every day on a talk show on which he is a moderator?You tell me my good chap Basil.

  6. Sherlock Holmes. June 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    some corrections to the above ……..should read his comments were very critical of Wickham,Also as above …..should read… but that is how i am seeing it.

  7. Sherlock Holmes. June 19, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Hartley was Thompson’s friend ? Hmmm, you probably mean he was and is still an opportunist. The so called king maker,laugh out loud.

  8. Carson C Cadogan June 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    A few past words from Hartley Henry:

    “In their next life, I would suggest that the current leadership of the Barbados Labour Party become missionaries. No other group of persons I know has come close to carrying a message of imminent rapture as has those who have for the past 30 months predicted the total destruction of Barbados and its economy”

    “Ever since the change of government in this country 30 months ago, we have had a tri monthly avalanche of soothsayer’s advice, telling us the collapse of the Barbados economy is imminent. Indeed, two estimates debates ago, we were told the country could not have gotten through the financial year and that all systems would have grounded to a halt.”

    “Those in the Barbados Labour Party who still have not come to terms with the election result of January 15th 2008, have made a favorite past time of coming to the country every three months with the most outlandish of forecasts; warning that the meal we eat could be our last and that the job we have and the home we possess will all be taken.”

    That last paragraph is still relevant today 19 June 2016.

    Hartley Henry’s words from a few years ago

  9. Kevin June 20, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Dry run? In 2012 and prior, governments changed hands in many election countries including St. Lucia.


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