The time is ripe for a third political force in Barbados, argued one local political strategist today.
However, Reudon Eversley’s assessment did not get the backing of his colleagues Dr George Belle and Peter Wickham, who said the idea still had not taken root.
In explaining his position, Eversley, who played an integral role in the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) successful 2008 campaign, led by the late Prime Minister David Thompson, noted that 40 per cent of the electorate had stayed away from the polls at the last general election held on February 21, 2013.
He said this was firm evidence of the growing disenchantment with both the DLP administration and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), while arguing strongly that Barbadians were now more receptive to the idea of an alternative political party.
“There are Barbadians who will argue that Barbados is a two party country. I do not necessarily buy that,” said Eversley in an interview with Barbados TODAY in which he made reference to failed past efforts at forging a third party on the island.
“Third parties fail for a variety of reasons,” he said, noting that “Sir Richard Haynes’ National Democratic Party, while it showed promise, people saw him as power hungry and they felt that when he broke from the DLP basically he wanted to be Prime Minister”.
He also pointed to Sir Frank Alleyne’s People’ Democratic Party and Eric Sealy’s People’s Pressure Movement, saying “nothing much came out” of either effort.
However, he noted that when the DLP was formed in 1956, it could have been considered a third party, but in five years they were able to form the government, a development which he credits to the late Sir Cameron Tudor.
“Any third party that comes on the scene and is supported by effective political marketing, branding, positioning, all the techniques that have been effectively used to market goods and services can be used for a political party,” he contended.
“ At the end of the day, a political party is providing solutions to needs. When people go to vote, they go to fulfill needs, in the same way that when you go to buy detergent, you buy it to satisfy a need.
“Some people need to accept that the nature of politics has changed. The issue of loyalty to party is disappearing. My generation will probably be the last that will vote consistently to either D or B. Young people today are more inclined to vote for a party based on what it can do for them in terms of meeting their needs. That is the new dynamics not only in Barbados but globally,” the political scientist added.
Following the resignation of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur from the BLP on Friday, Eversley painted a bleak picture of local politics today, saying, “increasingly, as I move around this country, I find Barbadians are becoming more receptive to the idea of a third party.
“They are disappointed with both political parties, but more so the Democratic Labour Party,” said Eversley, who recently severed ties with the DLP.
“I think that if a new party can emerge and it comes with an agenda that can really capture the imagination of Barbadians, especially the middle class, I think it can be a success,” he told Barbados TODAY.
However, reacting to Eversley’s observation, Belle, said: “The history of third parties in Barbados for most of the modern period, but particularly post independence, is not good.
“Even if you go back to the 1940s, the last competitive third party would have been Wynter Crawford’s party and then that succumbed by the late 40s and he eventually carried his forces into the Democratic Labour Party when it was formed.
“The problem with a third party is that it is going against the natural division with a population between two major parties. A two party system is defined on that basis. It may sound theoretical, but it is grounded in human behaviour. It is not that you have only two parties, it is that one of two parties is likely to form the next government. That is how a two-party system is defined. Therefore, for a third party to be viable it has to become one of those two parties. Unless you can take the base of one of those parties in place, you are not going to to do it,” Belle added.
Also addressing the possibility of a third party surviving in Barbados, political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham said: “I basically do not agree with the third party talk. While I do agree that 40 per cent of the electorate did not vote in theory, in practice, you appreciate that the voter turnout was a lot higher than it appeared to be.
“The other reality is that in order for a third party to fly, it has to be able to capture a substantially amount of support for it to stay intact and Richie Haynes demonstrated that that was not possible.
“The voter turnout now in Barbados was not the lowest. It has been lower before and the environment was not right for a third party. While I think that it is a great idea, it is likely to do what third parties do across the region – capture 20 per cent of the electorate and 20 per cent is not going to be sufficient to make it work,” Wickham added.