Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All change in Barbados

There will be a new government leading Barbados, and the new Prime Minister will be David Thompson. Barbados has followed the trend in all but one Caribbean election in the past 12 month and voted out the government. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP or Dems) won 20 seats over only 10 seats won by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP or Bees), and will form a government for the first time in 14 years.

While PM Owen Arthur and deputy PM Mia Mottley
safely held their seats, the 12% swing to the Dems led to a slew of defeats, including for nine ministers (Reginald Farley, Liz Thompson, Anthony Wood, Noel Lynch, Kerrie Symmonds, Trevor Prescod, Clyde Mascoll, Jerome Walcott and Rev. Joseph Atherley). Amongst the notable fallen heads were Clyde Mascoll (who had won as a Dem in 2003, defected to the Bees two years ago, and now has a chance to find new work). His defection was amongst several factors weighing against him, as was a simmering scandal over his role, financial or otherwise, in a company named Hardwood Housing. Tourism Minister Noel Lynch also lost his seat; many observers have said that the moment that Minister Lynch stormed out of a radio call-in program during spring last year over a question about his personal wealth the writing was on the wall. Some are contending that the late public push by the Dems' support of introducing integrity legislation was a cause of a late surge in support.

For detailed results you can see Nation News interactive poll results. Some of the races were very close and two seats needed recounts before falling in favour of BLP. Some of the following details may change, but at writing, St, Michael West Central went to the Dems' James Paul by 1 vote! St. Joseph went to BLP's Dale Marshall by 10 votes. St. Andrew went to BLP's George Payne by 50 votes.

It appears that the Dems did a good job of getting out the voters, especially the youths.


Thomas Gresham said...

Dear Dennis,

I have some sympathy for your thought with regards to Barbados teaching the rest of the world a thing or two about running a democracy, but I am not sure I would extend that to the region as a whole. I spent most of my voting life in the UK and cast my first vote in Barbados during this election. I had high expectations of the island of my birth, but I was pleasantly surprised at the order, efficiency and good anti-intimidatory practices. I can only speak of the polling station at the Metrological station in St James South, but voting practices there were of a higher standard than the dozen elections I have participated in, in the UK. If India is held up as an example of how a large state can run a successful democracy, then Barbados should be held up as a the world-class example of how a small, middle-income, state can run a democracy well.

But, you cannot say that about many other parts of the region. Take the big members of CARICOM. In the Guyana of the 1970s to 1990s elections were routinely rigged, and violence and intimidation were commonplace. When international observers were allowed in, as a condition of development finance, the government of the day lost for the first time. Even after international observers attested to the fairness of recent results, opposition groups have called general strikes and supported an atmosphere of political violence. Too many West Indians like to forget the regions shameful history of turning a blind eye to Mr. Forbes Burnham’s ransacking of Guyana’s opportunity and traditions.

The present is much better, but Jamaica and Grenada have a history of electoral violence that we would no want to export to the rest of the world either. At the moment, it appears that elections are the safest “place” to be in Trinidad & Tobago, but that country is sliding deeper and deeper into racial politics that can only spell bad governance, whichever grouping has the ascendancy. If it is not careful, Trinidad will become another Guyana. Then there is Antigua of the Birds. No. let us not be complacent. Barbados has a fine, world-class tradition. Something we must fight for and not grow complacent about. But, however ashamed I am to say it, I am not sure we can say the same for the West Indies as a whole.


Interesting post regarding democracy in the Commonwealth Caribbean by Mr. Thomas Gresham.With respect to Jamaica,there are numerous vexing problems,namely; political tribalism,political violence,garrisonization, exploitative patron-client relationships,lack or paucity of civic consciousness,dearth of national consciousness and strident nationalism/patriotism,pervasive and ubiquitous kleptocratic behaviour and corruption,constitutional problems, and the abysmal failure of political elites and political parties,etc.,confronting and challenging Jamaican democracy.Nonetheless,and also paradoxically,democracy is very institutionalized and alive within Jamaican society and political culture.Interestingly, African nation-states such as Kenya,et al, may be able to glean and learn how Jamaica with all the various stresses,social,political,economic and otherwise has been able to maintain a democratic system, despite its warts and sores after almost forty six years of independence from Great Britain.Interestingly,a democratic system does not have to be functiong at its most efficacious and legitimate level with respect to its denizens for other societies to glean,learn and benefit from how democracy is practised in that given system.Indeed,even the most problematic features of Jamaican democracy can be considered instructive,as a consequence of being able to enlighten political leaders/elites from other similar societies or political culture as to what to eschew, with respect to implementation of legal,juridical or constitutional policies.Comparatively,Jamaica is much more democratic than most African nation-states,if not all. Consequently,even with its sundry problems,the Jamaican state has not imploded or commited politicide, and despite the view or perspective of many Jamaicans regarding democracy and the viability of the state,Jamaica is still not a failed state.A post-mortem or obituary on Jamaica would therefore definitely be pre-mature.Quite frankly, one of the most interesting feature of Jamaican democracy is its resiliency and its hardiness. So,most definitely African states plagued with many of the structural problems similar to Jamaica are still in a position to observe what is happening or taking place in Jamaica and other Caribbean nation-states, such as Barbados and Trinidad with respect to the institutionalization,maintenance,survivability and viability of democracy in these societies and political cultures, and hopefully learn from them.But in the final analysis,it will be Africans who will have to solve their respective problems vis-a-vis the quest for democracy.RESPECT!!