Saturday, Mar 23, 2019
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Freundel Stuart suffered same fate as Perry Christie

Dear Editor,

Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Leader Mia Mottley was sworn in as Barbados’ first female prime minister in what many analysts have called a historic election.

The BLP won all 30 seats up for grabs in the House of Assembly. One-hundred and thirty-five candidates contested the election. The incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was swept from high office after leading the country a little over 10 years. The DLP under the leadership of the late David Thompson defeated the Owen Arthur-led BLP in January of 2008. Thompson died while in office in October 2010. He was succeeded by Freundel Stuart as DLP leader and prime minister. The 67 year-old Stuart has been in frontline politics since 1994.

Barbados had no official opposition in Parliament immediately after the election. To that end, Mottley pledged to evolve institutional arrangements to allow Barbadians to have a greater say in the governance of their country. High taxation coupled with the high cost of living were the DLP’s undoing.

Mottley inherited a challenging situation. The construction, tourism and financial services industries nosedived since the 2008 global recession. In 2007, Barbados’ sovereign debt enjoyed investment grade status by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. In March 2017, however, Barbados’ credit rating status was downgraded to junk. Mottley inherited a challenging situation.

The Barbadian election results were eerily similar to The Bahamas’ 2017 general election. The Free National Movement (FNM) secured 35 of the 39 seats in the House of Assembly. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) barely won four seats. It was a near clean sweep by the FNM. One of the many political casualties of the 2017 general election was Perry Christie. He lost his Centreville seat to the FNM’s Reece Chipman – a first for a sitting Bahamian prime minister. Stuart suffered the same fate as his Bahamian counterpart. He lost his St. Michael South seat to the BLP’s Kirk Humphrey – a newcomer to frontline politics. Both Stuart and Christie accepted full responsibility for their parties’ losses.

Two sitting regional prime ministers have fallen in their respective areas to opponents political analysts considered to be political lightweights. Much like the duopoly of the FNM and the PLP in The Bahamas, the DLP and BLP have dominated the political landscape of Barbados for decades. The fall of Stuart and Christie is a telltale sign of the waning commitment of the Barbadian and Bahamian people towards the leaders of the major political organizations. In past elections, the leaders of the major political parties always won their seats, even if their parties suffered an humiliating loss. Apparently, those days are behind us.

The leaders of the major political parties can no longer take their seats for granted. Christie and Stuart are quite aware of this.


– Kevin Evans

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