Elections Results 2018: Democracy Alive, Opposition Dead!
Submitted by Doc Martin
Congratulations to Ms. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister and to the BLP on their victory in the 2018 elections. As other commentators elsewhere have stated, democracy is alive and well in Barbados.
Well, the operation to remove the Freundel Stuart led DLP government has been successful but the patient has suffered complications and so an amputation was necessary to remove opposition to the flow of blood. At least that is the imagery that came to mind when CBC showed us for a few fleeting seconds, a red Barbados, after it was clear that the BLP has made a clean sweep of the election.
A much subdued Freundel Stuart, in the wee hours of Friday morning, conceded defeat but, as some commentators observed, was not gracious enough to mention the incoming PM by name.
Ms. Mottley is credited with saying that she was going to make history but I doubt even she had more than winning the election and being the first female Prime Minister of Barbados in mind when she said that. She certainly may not have had in mind a clean sweep of all thirty seats, including the St. John constituency, which for the first time in about 60 years, has fallen into BLP hands.
For weeks and months to come, pundits and analysts will ponder the complete “redwash” of the DLP and many hours will be spent analyzing the mistakes made and the lessons to be learned. While the dust is still settling, I wish to offer summary comments on three matters:  the defeat of the DEMS,  the absence of an opposition and  the need for a system of PR (proportional representation) to replace the current system of FPTP (first-past-the-post).
Defeat of the Dems
The defeat of the DEMS can be attributed to several forces, one positive, several negative.
On the one hand, the BLP must be credited for executing a very cleverly integrated marketing campaign that addressed the strategic marketing issues of stakeholder research need analysis, product configuration, positioning, segmentation, promotion and messaging. I have explained how some of these apply to political marketing elsewhere in this blog. As a marketing professional myself, I must also complement the BLP for sheer brilliance in using both traditional and digital media.
The “negative” force is threefold:
The failure of the DLP to do as well on marketing as the BLP. Too much of their manifesto, for example, focused on philosophy and the distant past. I have long ago said that Barrow and Tom Adams are no longer relevant to everyday life in Barbados. But the presence of at least two historians in the DLP just will not let the ghost of Barrow rest. Presumably the people of St. John have now exorcised his ghost!
Their failure to recognize the hazards of the ‘martyr complex’ which they induced in the electorate on behalf of Ms. Mottely through their communications strategy. Ms. Mottely cemented the martyr complex when she declared, “I have a broad back”. Elsewhere it is known as turning the other cheek, something Mr. Stuart should have done himself. It is a pity that he is not half as good at psychology as he is at history! The DLP started their campaign with the obvious goal of demonizing MAM, presumably in retaliation for her demonizing of the PM. This and their bad timing of the Mottley “tax waiver” bombshell, did not do them much good. When it was dropped, I remarked that the “tax waiver” bombshell was dropped too early. Had the DLP dropped the bombshell say, on the Tuesday before the election, they might have had a more lasting impact on the electorate and pressured the Mottley-BLP campaign. So another of their errors is that they forgot that most Bajans have short memories!
Finally, the association of the DLP brand with the spent and vindictive force of Owen Arthur served to cement Ms. Mottely’s victimhood and seal the DLPs fate. So, even though defending their policies was going to be a hard sell, the DLP, in fact, committed political suicide, although they had been holding the noose around their necks long before the election.
The second issue that has emerged from this election is the “death” of the parliamentary opposition. This means that the BLP, with an absolute majority can theoretically “do anything it wants”. As if in recognition of this, Ms. Mottley promised, in her acceptance speech early this morning, to consult all stakeholders and even hold referenda on crucial topics.
Notwithstanding her promises, the Barbadian population, in its overreaction to the DLP malfeasances, has unwittingly robbed the parliament of a lawful opposition to prosecute the business of those who did not endorse the BLP and, who are, therefore, in the minority. This means that the third parties which have not won a seat (as well as the population as a whole), must now be the surrogate opposition. So that far from being demolished, these third parties now have a responsibility to be the best extra-parliamentary opposition they can be.
In her concession speech, the leader of the UPP has suggested a system of proportional representation (PR), something I have been trumpeting on this blog since the start of this election. As should be now clear, had there been such a system in place, the DLP would have gotten some of the seats and we would have a formal opposition. Without the benefit of the final overall distribution of votes, I cannot say whether any of the third parties might have secured any of the seats because, in most PR systems, there is a minimum threshold of votes a party must obtain to be eligible for seats in parliament.
The first order of business then is for the “extra-parliamentary” opposition and all right-thinking members of society, to call, sooner rather than later, for a referendum (if that is the appropriate mechanism) on a change from the FPTP system to one of proportional representation. Ms. Mottley certainly has the votes to make such a constitutional change and therefore, her handling of such a request would tell us her true intentions for the Barbados which she claims she will be putting first.
In the meantime, all I can say is: “Barbados, looka wuh yuh gone and do!”