THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION in Barbados suggests that the accumulated weight of the approaches, tendencies and collective “personality” of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) over the last nine years is pressing heavily upon the party as it approaches the final year of its second term.
The objective always wins out over the subjective, and it can be argued that in Barbados today partisan propaganda can no longer deny reality.
In such a context, all internal contradictions are now being played out in the open.
For example, the Prime Minister’s penchant for permanent silence, which was previously defended as an indication of his supreme wisdom, is now viewed as indifference.
His unwillingness to respond to calls for dialogue in the face of myriad challenges is now confirming him as one who sees the prime ministerial office as a personal badge . . . . Whilst he loves the pomp, pageantry and distinction of the office, he shows little enthusiasm for the work.
Today, there are fewer voices willing to defend his silence.
Also weighing down on the Government is the weight of past internal leadership tensions and expressions of individual drifting as opposed to collective consensus.
Among the clearest expression of these tensions have been the “Eager Eleven” failed putsch, open disputes between ministers over policy direction, and more recently, public statements by the Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, which have the effect of separating himself from his Government’s failures.
These tendencies have always been present. However, today they have the feel of “finality” as an election approaches. Tensions which were previously stifled by the impulse of holding onto office are now less manageable as the possibilities of defeat loom larger.
In the final year of a difficult term, there are too many instances of everyday failures of basic services for comfort. Moreover, the continuing credit-rating downgrades, the festering debt overhanging and the immobility of Government in resolving any of the long-standing economic challenges underscore the sense of failure which voters may not tolerate into a third term.
Against such a background therefore, the DLP appears to be approaching a “natural collapse”. There have been no twists, no changes of direction or dramatic shifts.
From its first election in 2008 to the present, the DLP’s record can be summarised as a slow, perceptible downward slide, mediated only by its deep levels of goodwill among a patient public, willing to place subjective partisan thinking over objective reality.
In the present moment, the strident voices of complaint even among the most loyal of Government backers, who can no longer deny the depth of the economic crisis, has all the symbolism of a natural collapse.
The upcoming election will reveal whether the Barbadian voters’ subjective partisan attachments will loom larger than the objective conditions within which the election will be contested.
•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: email@example.com