by Peter Richards
BRIDGETOWN, Friday Barbados, February 22, 2013 – Barbadian voters kept with tradition and provided the incumbent party with a second consecutive term in power following a nerve jangling general elections here on Thursday.
According to the preliminary results, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won 16 of the 30 seats in the elections with the remainder going to the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). In the 2008 general election, the DLP won 20 seats.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in thanking supporters for the narrow victory, said “we are not here tonight celebrating the victory because of any sponsorship or support from the …fortune tellers of Barbados, the dividers or even the obeah men of Barbados.
“We celebrating tonight because of the confidence which ordinary men and women….who have not arrogated to themselves the right to what the future holds,” he told supporters, adding “we are celebrating because this organisation during the last five years touched actual lives by its policies and programmes, not to any sample, but to the population itself”.
The results are in mark contrast to the opinion polls that had predicted that the BLP, led by 63-year-old former prime minister Owen Arthur, would have won as many as 20 seats, while the DLP would have gained 13 seats at most.
“The people have spoken …we accept the will of the people,” Arthur said, adding “we were up against a number of factors”.
Both Prime Minister Stuart and Arthur comfortably won their seats, but there was defeat for Labour Minister Esther Byer-Sukoo, who lost to newcomer Dwight Sutherland, an engineer.
Prime Minister Stuart 61, has not yet addressed supporters following the results, but he had earlier indicated that he was confident that the DLP would be returned to office.
He insisted that the DLP had conducted a “very efficient campaign” and that it is sure the public had been fully acquainted with the policies of the party going into the election.
The results could also change as a recount has been ordered in the St. Michael South East constituency where Santia Bradshaw of the BLP won over Patrick Tannis by less than 10 votes.
Never in the history of this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) island since it attainted its political independence from Britain in 1996, has a government failed to obtain anything more than a 10-year term in office.
“Clearly there has been a swing against the government,” said political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham, describing the results as “an odd election”.
Another political analyst Hartley Henry said that the electorate had sent a message to both parties and more so raises the question as to the leadership of Arthur, who had sought to regain the government he lost in 2008 by a 20-10 margin.
“The results bring into question the issue of the BLP leadership. If Arthur is unable to get 16 seats today it would be difficult to see him holding power in the future,” he said.
But Arthur told reporters he was not going to comment on his future in the party.
Celebrations broke out at the DLP headquarters and in other areas on the island, after supporters had waited anxiously for the results of the St. Phillip South constituency which was retained by attorney general Adriel Brathwaite by more than 400 votes.
The seat was the last to be declared and earlier supporters of both parties were resigned to a hung parliament after media reports said that the BLP candidate Anthony Wood had won, resulting in a 15-15 tie.
The BLP had made the state of the economy, high cost of living an issue during the three week campaign, but the DLP had countered that it had started the process of reversing the situation by implementing a number of policies.
But Prime Minister Stuart reminded supporters “we are not governing in easy circumstances. We had to govern in the context of the worst crisis the world had seen in over 100 years”.
He said he was always confident that the voters would have rebuffed the policies of the opposition and told supporters that with the election over “we are not going to embark on any revenge”.
Former opposition leader Mia Mottley, who easily retained her St. Michael North-East seat, said the electorate had through the results, sent a message to both parties.
“I think Barbados is in serious, not only economic crisis, but also in terms of our governance. I think people want serious transformation,” she said, describing the poll on Thursday as “30 by-elections”.
But in his address, while he did not name anyone, Prime Minister Stuart said he is perturbed at a new development that had engulfed the local politics where voters were being bribed.
“In this election when these corrupters of the youth no longer feel they have to hide and commit their nefarious deals. I will be looking at all the laws relating to elections and I am going to stiffen them because an example has to be made of those people…”