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Owen swept away

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18 JAN.08

Political pundits and Caribbean people throughout the region are still coming to grips with the surprise sweeping of the polls by David Thompson’s Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in Tuesday’s general elections in Barbados. In those elections, three-time visitor Owen Arthur, thought to be a titan in Caribbean politics, and one of the region’s few genuinely popular Prime Ministers, received a crushing 20-10 defeat at the hands of the Opposition DLP.{{more}}

Most predictions had been for a close outcome, with polls by UWI pollsters Peter Wickham and George Belle each predicting victory for the DLP (Wickham) and the incumbent Barbados Labour Party (Belle). But it was not just the DLP’s success that was surprising, but the margin of its victory in terms of seats. From being the minority party in Parliament, it has now emerged with a two-thirds majority in the Legislature, enough to pilot major legislation on its own.

Many will be the analyses and post-mortem examinations as to what went wrong for Owen and company. They will range from purely local issues to implications for the wider Caribbean society. Clearly, Owen and company had suffered from staleness, and even a certain over-confidence in seeking an unprecedented fourth successive term of office. But many of his ministers had become divorced from the people they were supposed to represent, and a series of allegations about corrupt practices provided timely cannon fodder for the Opposition. No wonder nine ministers lost their seats, having lost their political bearing.

The Caribbean being a closely-knit community, the Barbados results will not be lost on the electorate in neighbouring countries, especially on incumbent repeat governments. The people of Belize and Grenada are due to have their say in Parliament democracy soon, and those governments will anxiously be examining the implications for them. Antigua’s turn is not far off either. In the case of perennially contentious St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Barbados results will have significance. The losing BLP is a sister party to the ruling ULP, whilst the DLP’s association with the Opposition NDP goes back to the connections of the late Errol Barrow and former NDP leader Sir James Mitchell. It will not be lost on our people that the DLP’s colour is yellow, while that of the BLP is red.

So the ULP certainly has food for thought and would be foolish not to take heed and try to avoid the mistakes of Owen Arthur’s party, especially in the regeneration of candidates.

We wish the new Barbados administration all the best and look forward to the deepening of the CARICOM integration process during its tenure.

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