Saturday, April 20, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Second-term decay


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ONE OF THE SIGNIFICANT OUTCOMES of the no-confidence motion moved last week by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley against the Freundel Stuart-led Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration was the exposure of the level of political decay within the Government, given the psychological two-term timeline which has historically governed Barbadian and some other Caribbean administrations.

The qualifying terms for pensions by parliamentarians, the general expectation that “one term is not enough”, the rough history of two-term cycles of party interchange, and the now normative demand of two-term constitutional time limits on prime ministerial terms have all contributed to this process of “political decay” within the DLP.

Central to this notion of political decay is the absence of genuine interest in the higher and “more noble” aspects of representation, given that even the lower and “more Machiavellian” motivation of holding on to power is diminished. In other words, once the ruling party cares less about re-election, it becomes prone to error, callousness and indifference and the general level of both governance and development suffers decay.

The exposure of the second-term decay within the DLP can count as the most significant outcome of Mottley’s no-confidence motion. Indeed, the many who have been claiming that the motion was a “waste of time”, given the Government’s built-in majority, have revealed themselves to be operating within a narrow Machiavellian framework of “winning and losing”. This is a common habit among lay persons to simultaneously over- and under-estimate the permanence of power. Such persons tend to assume that governments “cannot fall” or “can fall easily”. They tend to view power relations as “fixed” and are unable to understand power – relational, organic, fluid and contingent.

In contrast, the clear evidence of the DLP’s second-term decay showed clearly the value of the no-confidence motion.

First, it became impossible for the Government to respond with total silence as it had done with the last motion, since this would have meant that an eight-year catalogue of failures (water shortages and all) was not worthy of explanation. It was impossible to do the same thing twice, since this would have exposed the Government not only as “indifferent and arrogant”, but as cowardly.

Secondly, the quality of the responses revealed the “tiredness” of the Government, with one minister demanding acceptance into the middle class, measured in terms of his new line of clothing.

Finally, the decision by the Government to reinstate the “shambolic” ten per cent in parliamentarians’ pay, in the very moment of the no-confidence motion, sealed beyond reproof the Government’s image as self-serving and callous.

Those who insist therefore that the motion of no confidence was a waste of time, given its 16-12 defeat, fail to understand how effectively the motion has exposed the reality of political decay of the ruling DLP administration, as the Government approaches the end of its second term in office.

• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email:


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