Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: Signed, sealed and delivered


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THE SURPRISINGLY EARLY completion of the selection and unveiling of the 30 candidates to represent the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the next general election does little to raise the prospect of an early poll date in the eyes of observers.

But it sends a signal that the party is ready for whenever the bell is rung by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is now in the final lap and a half of his term of office.

Both strategy and timing would have influenced party leader Mia Mottley to have her full slate of election prospects to present as part of a pumped up annual conference last weekend.

Since she was not eligible to remain as chairperson of the party, she would at best have planned to ensure that her successor would have been spared the chore of completing candidate selection; or at worst, she would have been personally comforted by the fact that the process was sealed and delivered, and should not present any enticement for tampering by the new executive.

The latter is an internal matter of the politics of the BLP that is no doubt informed by the not-too-distant history of the party.

Insofar as the timing was concerned, Mottley’s bet made good sense. The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) holds the option to call an early election in the aftermath of the euphoria of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Independence.

If the option is exercised, then the BLP will be ready. If it is not, then the opposition party will be required to more deliberately pace its campaigning and prepare its new candidates, two-thirds of whom are wet behind the ears.

But there is the additional menace that once identified, the neophytes will be under the stress of demands for favours by constituents for a protracted period. That could be harmful, particularly if the hopefuls are not able to deliver on requests for assistance, many of which may be genuine in the economic circumstances of the day.

There is a widely held view that by nature Stuart is unlikely to take any undue risk of exposing his government to full scrutiny before he is good and ready, which means that he has served his full term.

His decision with respect to the choice of dates for both the by-election in St John to replace his late predecessor, as well as that for the general election of 2013 speak volumes about his modus operandi.

This is reinforced by the fact that there are no signs as yet that the DLP is in the mode of candidate selection, which, of course, is a much smaller and easier task for a majority government, assuming that ministers who comprise 90 per cent of the party’s elected MPs, all show interest in re-election.

The one minister whose recent health challenges seemed to stand in the way of robust engagement in electioneering, Dr Dennis Lowe, has been loud in his proclamation “I’m ready for the challenge”.

But as the gap leading up to the outside election date narrows, Stuart and his team will be aware of the readiness of the BLP as much as they will be of the list of their unfulfilled promises and the ever-present economic difficulties as they impact on the day-to-day lives of voters.


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