One of the oldest and most respected political parties in the Caribbean Community appears to be in disarray in the aftermath of a crushing electoral defeat that saw the governing Barbados Labor Party (BLP) again winning all 30 parliamentary seats in general elections held last week.
The crushing blow to the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) means that the island nation of just over 300,000 people will again be forced to function without a single elected legislator functioning as an opposition voice in parliament.
The defeat forced the immediate resignation of party leader Verla DePeiza and instead of the party moving quickly to replace her, a special session to elect a new leader has now been astonishingly postponed to April.
The win by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and her party means that it is only the second time in living memory that a governing party in the 15-nation bloc has won all the seats in a general election. In Grenada, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell has done so three times in the past 20 years and could repeat again because of an abysmally weak opposition. Elections there are due by mid-next year but Mitchell has been giving strong hints that he is likely to seek a new mandate later this year. Mottley called the polls 18 months ahead of schedule saying the country was disunited.
The cabinet in the fellow Eastern Caribbean sub grouping member nation of Antigua, where fresh elections are also due, has asked the elections commission to intensify voter registration and put systems in place for a possible snap poll as the current habit of taking advantage of unprepared opposition parties gains momentum.
In last week’s polls in Barbados, Mottley surprised election pundits and critics alike by sweeping all 30 seats amid predictions that she would have dropped up to seven to the DLP. The DLP will now have to depend on picking up a few seats in the non-elected senate or upper house when appointments are made in the coming days.
DLP strategist Hartley Henry Monday blasted the DLP for delaying the appointment of a new leader to help in rebuilding and reorganizing at a time when it appears to be in tatters.
“The whole question of differing the question of leadership to April of this year is madness and anyone who is remotely connected will tell you this is the moment you must seize. You cannot allow the party to go into paralysis between now and April and don’t exist. You need to solve the issue of leadership now and the constitution does not provide for you to solve the issue of leadership because it does not provide for you to elect a political leader. In 2022 the constitution must be clear,” the Today newspaper quoted him as saying.
He complained that the DLP had placed a large number of newcomers in constituencies, pitting them against seasoned and well-known cabinet ministers and other high officials representing the governing party. He felt most did not have a chance.
“Only one party showed up. We have to come to terms with that reality. The DLP was all over the place. What we are seeing here is a vote of confidence for a government and the leadership of a government and a repudiation of the opposition,” he said on a television panel as results came in.
The elections were called in late December, less than a month after Mottley had led the nation to a flawless transition from a mere independent nation to a republic with its own native head of state instead of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, ensuring that Barbados joined Guyana, Trinidad and Dominica as republics.
The PM had taken some political flak for the transition without a referendum, as she simply used the parliamentary majority to do so. This led to criticisms about her autocratic style and her alleged refusal to listen to wise counsel. She is expected to name a new cabinet by Tuesday amid fears among some disgruntled ministers that they may fall off the cabinet wagon in the new scheme of things.