The George Brathwaite Column – New Parties and Bold Engagement

George C. Brathwaite (PhD)

In last week’s column, it was argued that Barbadians are not contented with the functionality of democratic governance as explained by this writer. This week’s submission is a continuation of the discussion, focussing on the need to shape new institutions of participatory and deliberative democracy. Realistically, the present system of governance is gutted by diminishing returns. One unmistakeable issue rests on the weakness of following a model of governance that does not cater to the universal engagement of the population when making important decisions of public policy. This in turn has led to a dearth of confidence in the political system.

Overcoming the declining confidence in Barbados’ political system requires reforms which consider the need for increased citizen engagement. Greater involvement by the electorate that is indicative of a fairer distribution of gender, age, and other social variables, ought to be linked to the classical institutions of representative democracy which feature in the House of Assembly. After all, the voices and opinions of the people on matters of societal importance should matter if democracy is fulfilling its nominal intent. In an effective democracy, the public is routinely asked for their input and informed about actions being taken or contemplated in their names.

However, a growing situation sees apathy and cynicism spawn the political planks with many persons frowning at the elected representatives. The political class’ visibility appears robust only when requiring public support and votes during the campaign period. Even with the availability of new technologies, representation is tragically lost except for the self-maximising photo opportunity. Indeed, the disenchantment with governance in Barbados is driving change; the social and political dynamics are forcing a revisit of Barbados’ archaic governance model.

In recent months, Barbadians heard and saw a surge in ‘new’ political parties interested in contesting the next general elections. Certainly, it is the enshrined constitutional right for individuals to freely associate and come together to form pressure groups and political parties of their creation and interests. Thus far, presentations by these entities have been opaquely faceless and short of names. Shallow appearances by some suggest that the prospective candidates and groups either lack the conviction or are willing to spend as little time/money as possible in mounting their platforms. Regardless, they do not cordially fit into the vehicles of the established institutions of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) or the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

Notwithstanding the pitfalls of an inherently adversarial political system, it is somewhat encouraging that new and emergent parties and individuals are desirous of exercising their rights through democratic means. Perhaps, there is a brazenness being associated with those candidates and parties bursting out from previous concealment or exclusion. One gathers that these groups, without singing the same song as the current opposition party, have decided to reject passive acceptance of traditions. Their quest to enter the political battle in which the winner takes all and the losers are less likely to be appropriately accommodated is fastidiously bold. These new candidates and parties will step to the batting crease aware that hostile bowling will likely come from both ends.

In the scheme of Barbados’ post-election bedlam, victimisation coupled with latent marginalisation can befall the losing candidates and parties. Such was the case after 2008 when the winning party even went the route of revealing and dismantling the network of consultants that were utilised for the efficiency of governance in the national interest. The new ‘outsider’ parties and candidates are therefore choosing to contest elections against a grain of political normalcy which sometimes borders on lunacy. The journey must be risky given the partisan and divisive Barbadian political culture. The downside is that they may suffer a price that many more are unwilling to pay even in the name of democratic governance.

An emerging picture tells of concerns over the very legitimacy of the electoral process and a tale of possible crises within traditional political parties. The evidence is in low voter turnouts. In the 2013 general elections, nine of the 30 constituencies registered lower than a 60 % turnout of eligible voters. None reached as high as 70 %, and the official data reveal that St. George South had the highest voter turnout at 68.8 % while Christ Church West recorded the lowest at 55. 3 %. The low voter turnout is worrisome and lends to the claim that apathy is present across the Barbadian society. The trend suggests that lower levels of citizen participation happens because voters have been frustrated by everyday governance practices and exclusion. Hence, the preference to stay away from ballot boxes.

An inherent irony is that many citizens and residents comprising both sexes, feel as though their value to Barbados’ democratic system is of note only at elections – usually once every five years. Promises and alleged pecuniary offers to voters have tarnished the island’s image. Persons are rightly disgusted with the vote-buying that featured in 2013, and the proverbial silence of the executive arm of government in the wake of such sordid machinations.

Barbadians, with their high levels of literacy and reasonably high standards of education, are demanding that their voices be heard, and their collective interests catapulted above the paramountcy of the political party. They want their opinions counted as worthwhile in the national discourse on complex issues. The evidence of such can be discerned from the complaints on social media, the popularity of the radio call-in programmes hosted by two leading media outlets, and the numerous ‘letters to the editor’ that reveal the underbelly of a fractured form of democratic governance. Plain and simple, Barbadians want to be able to influence the policy agendas of government in wholesome ways.

Young and old, men and women want to have more input regarding decision-making particularly, as the choices affect them and their livelihoods. In this age, it is insufficient to claim voter power once every five years or to passively and blindly support a political party only to be disappointed and have no say for another five years. Also, it amounts to a travesty when societal hierarchies (e.g. university graduates, business elites, and the professional class) and patterns of discrimination (e.g. low levels of representation or the under-representation of women and youth) are institutionalised within the legislature without any urgency or new modes for addressing this endemic shortcoming.

From the little information put into the public so far, it appears that the emerging new candidates and parties are themselves being drawn to a cloak of secrecy which is counter-productive and does not inspire new democratic footholds. Lack of effective communication cannot be the way forward, although Barbadians may feel encouraged that more citizens are willing to test traditional waters and, become active participants in the civics and politics of the nation. The new political parties should not get automatic support. The electorate must be given ample information and time to digest their values, ideologies, and approaches to managing Barbados’ affairs. It is inexcusable that the new parties appear lost somewhere between self-preservation and intimidation, despite intending to get more than a peep on the inside when it comes to representation and policymaking. All in all, the newcomers to the political line-up continue to ready themselves either to be makers or spoilers.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

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16 Comments on “The George Brathwaite Column – New Parties and Bold Engagement”

  1. CUP.Violet Beckles Plantation Deeds from 1926-2017 land tax bills and no Deeds,BLPand DLP Massive land Fruad and PONZI April 4, 2017 at 8:19 AM #

    Who paid you to write this Junk?, People have plenty proof they are dealing with crooks, liars and scumbags, All you are telling people is long talk to nowhere, So if they had dont like DLP , now its time to vote BLP? Go sit in the corner. Both Parties JUNK, and it seem you would like it better for all to stay home and the Ministers are the only one to Vote, No hope in Barbados and other will make it worse? All the government have now is a printing press , and white people at the ports, Starve People for 4 years and jam up all the projects in the last year to make it look like we have brighter days ahead, Right after their fraud news all will home in 2 years or less,
    The Problem in Barbados is a Massive Land fraud and PonZi , even these words you will never write, The Ministers and the Lawyers side track all lwas and rules for gain, Gain of Money, MONEY, money , slave masters bitches, How much are you gettting,
    Vote CUP and you will eat your words,CUP words that you or others like you will never type or speak,
    Deal with Truth and Facts , words and things people like you want to run from , only thing you are missing is the price for a vote in the next elections,

    Vote CUP to see all things covered up , The White man knows , now its time for the People to know,

    Like

  2. Pachamama April 4, 2017 at 8:28 AM #

    The time for ‘reforms’ has long past.

    What we need is a radical inversion of the system

    We have been called an ‘extremist’ by Bushie, and maybe we are

    Extreme circumstances require extreme measures

    Anybody whose brain is different circuited is a f**king idiot.

    And are these not extreme times?

    Bushie, a man who sees nothing wrong with the maintenance of lies at the centre of his ‘philosophy’

    Lies about a White man’s god, a provable 2500 year fiction.

    We are yet to understand how anything based on lies could breed ‘reforms’, lease transformation.

    Extreme measures require throwing out his fictional ‘son’ with its nasty bath water and replacing that fiction with the real ‘Sun”, as giver of all life, which resides in this here solar system.

    Like

  3. Shontelle R. Brathwaite April 4, 2017 at 9:54 AM #

    Why am I a Barbadian? The Amazon collapsed under the Caribbean sea. Y? Zed

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazon-collapsed-under-caribbean-sea-y-zed-brathwaite-sealy?published=t

    Like

  4. Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger April 4, 2017 at 10:31 AM #

    Pachca…ah gotta agree, a 2000 year old system built on lies require extreme radical changes, the longer the lies persist and are entertained, the more extreme the measures will be required to eradicate the damage…but black people like being victims of their damaged psyches, so not for another 3 generstions will they see the light.

    Like

  5. Vincent Haynes April 4, 2017 at 11:10 AM #

    The electorate must be given ample information and time to digest their values, ideologies, and approaches to managing Barbados’ affairs. It is inexcusable that the new parties appear lost somewhere between self-preservation and intimidation,
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    This to my mind is the crux of the matter as far as these new parties are concerned.

    We need to be convinced that they have seen the flaws in our governance system,become aware of the needs of Bimmers and have put plans in place to rectify these matters by virtue of listening to communities around the the island.

    We must also look at how places like Iceland and others solved their problems,learn to pick out workable solutions that can be modified to suit our unique system.

    We should have reached the stage by now,where the hide and seek secrecy of the political class,the concept of winners and loosers,the idea of self over country are things of the past.

    Sadly I lack confidence in our ability to reach this level of maturity.

    Like

  6. Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger April 4, 2017 at 11:50 AM #

    The leaders of Iceland see reality, are mature and understand that only they, no one else, are responsible for fixing their internal problems and are intelligent enough to do just that, their constitution is geared toward ridding the country of any parasitic incompetent, corrupt leaders and self-serving, greedy corrupt business people immediately, without any delays, forthwith, just like Switzerland, they are decades ahead in that regard.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Tron April 4, 2017 at 4:59 PM #

    All hail to transparceny and freedom in Scandinavia! These countries shall enlighten all developing countries around the globe for a future not built on the heritage of English colonialism and slavery.

    Like

  8. Hants April 5, 2017 at 7:52 AM #

    bizzy seh !

    FUNDING FOR ELECTION CAMPAIGNS should be pulled from the Treasury and not the private sector.

    http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/95355/bizzy-treasury-election-funding#sthash.qIf5GfTO.dpuf

    Like

  9. David April 5, 2017 at 8:09 AM #

    Bizzy is correct, we need to implement a new way to manage campaign financing.

    Like

  10. Hants April 5, 2017 at 8:35 AM #

    If all of Corporate Barbados do like Bizzy and refuse to contribute to political parties then the parties will just have to use their own resources to fund their campaigns.

    The politicians won’t be able to share out grantleys and gih way fridges but they can still put on the comedy shows aka political brass meetings.

    Election reform can be added to Integrity legislation and FOI on the todo list for the incoming administration.

    Like

  11. NorthernObserver April 5, 2017 at 11:48 AM #

    You should know better living in Canada. Take away one, and the politicians find another…what is it the Liberals do….fund raising dinners at $1500/plate or personal visits from an elected member at house parties.

    One election was funded when a party supporter received an “out of court settlement” for many million on a case the government internal lawyers deemed baseless.

    Like

  12. Hal Austin April 5, 2017 at 12:18 PM #

    David,
    The right people to fund political parties are the members.

    Like

  13. Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger April 5, 2017 at 4:11 PM #

    Bizzy meant the new political parties, he said nothing about dropping campaign funding for the two old political parties, he only said they have not yet contacted him, besides,, did he not say only last year he been funding both political parties each election cycle…

    ……how else will they get their scam contracts worth millions of taxpayer dollars…unless between him and Cow/Maloney robbing NIS and treasury for decades…they now have enough money, now that both NIS and treasury are running on empty..

    Just like the politicians…yall too easy to fool.

    Like

  14. Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger April 5, 2017 at 4:16 PM #

    The ignorant yardfowls should be made to sell their asses to fund the political parties, they want to be followers, be indoctrinated with a head full of backward rubbish, be demeaned, degraded and relegated to mindless, emotyheaded nobodies like Alvin, Carson and the ACs, they should be forced to pay for that pleasure…idiots.

    Taxpayers and pensioners money should not be funding election campaigns.

    Like

  15. NorthernObserver April 5, 2017 at 5:56 PM #

    It is fairly standard for major corporations in Bim to contribute to both major parties. It is viewed as “supporting democracy in politics” versus supporting B or D. They do similarly with mainstream religions. I suspect the issue they face, is for the first time they are concerned, that both major historical parties maybe vulnerable, and for this reason alone they may wish to “hedge their donations”. Alternately, they may use the “economy” and these “new parties” as reasons to cut back their ‘political spend’.
    Several of the larger corps, SOL, Sagicor, Massey, GEL etc now operate in many regions, and Bimshire is just one of many. Another good reason to reduce or eliminate the political spend.

    Like

  16. Tron April 5, 2017 at 6:23 PM #

    Northern,

    Barbados is bankrupt to the core.

    Given the looming collapse of Barbadian financial system, the businessmen have nothing to expect after next election than riot, drugs and crime. Why should they support puppets who cannot deliver profit anymore?

    Liked by 1 person

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