Saturday, April 13, 2024

OUR CARIBBEAN: Shadow-boxing on a snap poll: DLP/BLP game?


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A NEW general election is not constitutionally due in this country before the first quarter in 2013.
But to follow the game of words being played out in the local media, one could be misled into thinking that there may be a snap parliamentary poll during this year or in early 2012.
While the more exuberant loyalists of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) may be looking forward to the excitement of electioneering politics, one senses a pervading cynicism across the general political divide that both parties are in essence engaged in “shadow-boxing” talk of an early poll.
The ink had hardly dried from last SUNDAY SUN’s Page One lead story of a scheduled DLP retreat at Queen’s College to strategize on a possible snap general election, when came the DAILY NATION’s lead story the following day (February 28) quoting BLP leader Owen Arthur as boastfully challenging Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, to “test us . . . bring on the election, Freundel . . . ”.
At present, both the Dems and Bees have a common problem of internal divisions. In the camp of the Bees there is the Mia Mottley factor that, for all his astuteness, Owen Arthur has at some stage to seriously come to terms with – considering the perceived influence the former leader may have had beyond her own parliamentary constituency.
For Prime Minister Stuart, there is the known “Sinckler factor”, with Thompson’s anointed Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler losing no opportunity to demonstrate his interest not just in retaining his portfolio, but spreading his political influence at party and national level.
What both the Dems and Bees should acknowledge is that the national economy is in trouble and in need of fixing before international political developments such as the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East make matters worse, with rising food prices further aggravating the spreading cost of living burden.
When, however, it comes to whose leader and party are better equipped to come forward with realistic prescriptions for economic recovery and easing of the social burden, the battle lines are drawn, although, as some think, leadership inaction on the part of the Government in this post-David Thompson period could reinforce a perception in favour of the Bees.
When the Estimates Debate begins by mid-month, the Barbadian public should have a better idea of the economic and social challenges that lie ahead. For his part, Prime Minister Stuart may well come under new pressures to indicate whether he will stay with the Cabinet inherited from Thompson, or reshuffle – however limited the changes.
It was intriguing to learn how Hartley Henry, chief political adviser to the late Prime Minister, who quickly quit as self-proclaimed “kingmaker” even before the burial of Thompson, had last weekend rushed to the media to signal a warning to the Dems against “risking” a snap general election.
Henry, who has been carefully cultivating his reputation as a “political strategist”, following his ill-fated parliamentary debut in 1999 against the BLP veteran Louis Tull, seems to have considered it necessary to go public with unsolicited advice to the Dems against gambling with a snap election because of “perceived or real problems” of the Bees.  
 It is curious that he chose to go public in preference to a private exchange of views, even if not with Prime Minister Stuart himself, with other influential party/Government personalities, for example, Sinckler. Question now is: Will there be more of the shadow boxing game of readying for a snap poll?


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