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Last updated: 21 January, 2008 - Published 08:46 GMT
 
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Cabinet ready for business
 

 
 
Barbados parliament
Riding on a wind of change, the DLP takes control of the Barbadian parliament
Barbados now has an eighteen-member Cabinet, following Sunday's swearing-in ceremony of the Democratic Labour Party administration led by lawyer David Thompson.

Mr Thompson holds the finance portfolio and some four others including energy, while engineer Richard Sealy's been made the new tourism minister.

Also in the Cabinet is international trade specialist Christopher Sinckler who until recently headed the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.

Mr Sinckler is the minister for foreign affairs, foreign trade and international business.

Bajans voted for change

The January 15 defeat of the Barbados Labour Party administration, is increasingly looking as if November's victory by the People's National Movement in Trinidad and Tobago, may have been an aberration in a perceived wind of change sweeping away governments of the Caribbean Community.

As Barbadians were trekking to polling station's last Tuesday a question being openly discussed was whether it would result in a fourth change of government among independent CARICOM countries within a 13 month period that started with the defeat in December 2006 of the second term St Lucia Labour Party administration.

Well, the change did occur, ending with a vengeance, the three-term administration of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur who was seeking an unprecedented fourth term.

Five Changes

In a stunning reversal of political fortunes, the BLP suffered a painful defeat by David Thompson's Democratic Labour Party which was given a strong 20-10 mandate to govern the country for the next five years.

All about David Thompson
David John Howard Thompson was born in London of Barbadian parents in December 1961.
He's a 46-year-old attorney-at-law trained at the University of the West Indies.
He rose to national prominence in Barbados as a keen high school debater.
He was elected to Parliament in 1987 in a bye-election which was held following the death of then Prime Minister Errol Barrow. He has represented the rural parish of St. John since then.
During the Erskine Sandiford administration of the early 1990s, he served at various times as Minister of Community Development and Culture, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and later Minister of Finance.

If the victory of the opposition Virgin Islands Party at last August 20 general election in the British Virgin Islands is added to the outcome in Barbados, it would mean that there have been five changes in government at six national elections within 13 months in CARICOM of which the BVI is an Associated State.

The other changes had taken place earlier in The Bahamas and Jamaica.

In CARICOM countries where elections are due later this year, do not expect either the government of Prime Minister Said Musa in Belize nor that of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell's in Grenada to agree, but indications point to likely changes in government at coming elections in both these CARICOM member countries.

BELIZE: Earlier this month, Prime Minister Musa announced fresh general election for next month, on February 7.

Swept into power

At last 2003 general election his incumbent People's United Party (PUP) scored a second term victory with a very convincing 22-7 parliamentary majority.

Now its challenger for power, Dean Barrow's United Democratic Party (UDP), thinks the conditions exist for it to be swept into power by a perceived changed mood of the electorate.

With the addition of two new constituencies the battle by Musa's PUP and Barrow's UDP will be for a 31-member elected parliament.

GRENADA: In Grenada, where Prime Minister Mitchell has been facing increasing demands from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas to call fresh election-constitutionally due in November this year-an announcement of such a development could well come when the governing New National Party (NNP) holds its annual convention that's scheduled for January 27.

Political Manoeuvres

A crucial difference between Mr Musa's quest for a third term government and that of Dr Mitchell's bid for a fourth consecutive term is that the former had secured his March 2003 electoral victory not just with a landslide 22-seat majority but 53 percent of the valid popular votes.

In contrast, the latter had survived defeat by a one-seat margin (8 to 7) and with less than 50 percent of the votes cast (48 percent NNP to the NDC's 45.06 percent for the 15-member House of Representatives.

That one-seat majority, which came from Carriacou by a mere six votes, had been unsuccessfully challenged and Dr Mitchell's NNP was to engage since then in strenuous political manoeuvres to maintain stability in governance amid natural and man-made disasters.

Prime Minister Mitchell was quick to declare, following the defeat of the Arthur government in Barbados, that he did not recognise the changing administrations as any political wind of change blowing across CARICOM and which could affect his administration.

The verdict of the Grenadian voters will come later in the year.

Advertising Blitz

BARBADOS: In relation to what occurred on election day in Barbados, it was "the mood for change" and neither "leadership-you-can-trust" or "economic performance record" planks of the BLP campaign that resulted in the dramatic change in the Barbadian political landscape.

The trouncing of the incumbent BLP by a united and reinvigorated DLP with a 20-10 parliamentary victory, underscored how very badly the 'Bees' read the political temperature and for which Mr Arthur has paid a very heavy price -- though by no means disgraced.

Owen Arthur at a Caribbean economic conference in London
Outgoing PM Arthur had been Caricom's economic point man

To bring into a 2008 general election campaign the advertising blitz and US presidential-style politicking with a leadership theme that had served it well for both a second and third term in its bid to create history with a fourth consecutive victory, was to demonstrate a surprising disconnect by the BLP's strategists with an electorate that have a history of mixing loving embraces with hostile rejections.

Ten years after he had led this country into political independence, Errol Walton Barrow, 'Father of the Nation' was to suffer the pain of such a rejection back in September 1976 when he was confident that his outstanding leadership stature and the prevailing social and economic stability would propel him to an unprecedented fourth term victory.

Some 32 years later, the only other Barbadian politician who, like Barrow, had the honour of heading three consecutive governments, Owen Seymour Arthur --undoubtedly one of the best Prime Ministers and leaders of CARICOM -- was to repeat that error of judgement, although priding himself as a good political student of "Barrowism".

That error by him and his campaign strategists holds a significant explanation why last Tuesday's election has left Mr Arthur, Barbados' fifth Prime Minister, mulling his future out of power, and Mr Thompson as the country's sixth Prime Minister to shape his first cabinet.

Back in 1976 when Barrow had failed to achieve a fourth term victory, the DLP was reduced to seven seats in a then 24-member House of Assembly-a painful reversal from its 18-6 victory against the BLP at the previous 1971 election.

Transparency

Now, in 2008, the BLP, which had secured a massive 23-7 majority at the 2003 election, has been despatched by the electorate with 10 seats and with nine of cabinet ministers among the 20 defeated candidates.

Owen Arthur was philosophical in his acceptance of defeat, praising the democratic process that remains such a sturdy feature of governance in this Eastern Caribbean state; and noting that "in the 69 years of our party, we have gone this way before..."

The cycle of electoral victories and defeats in Barbados seems to suggest that today's parties and political should be more mindful of the nature of the beast that is the Barbadian electorate with a renowned capacity to love -- for as long as 10 or even 15 years -- only to later resort, if so disturbed, with a vengeful rejection with transparency.

 
 
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