Barbadians who might be eager to cast their votes in an early general election can forget about it.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean this evening ruled out a snap poll, confirming that the Freundel Stuart administration would be spending its full term in office.
“The beautiful thing about this country, Mr Deputy President, is that every five years or part thereof we have elections and Government changes,” McClean told the Senate while speaking on a resolution for amendments to the Public Service (General) Order to include the appointment of temporary public servants.
“What I can tell you is that contrary to the concerns, and I don’t think I am giving anything away, I have a Prime Minister who believes that we are given five years to serve and we should serve five years. So while my friends on the other side are busy campaigning, they are going to have to wait ‘till the requisite time for that to happen. So you should enjoy your Christmas.”
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had predicted last year that Stuart would have exploited “the feel-good factor [with] music, performances, food, drink [and]cultural shows” expected to follow year-long celebrations in observance of the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence to announce a surprise election.
“At the end of it, this massive celebration for your 50th anniversary in November next year, hit you with a snap election before the Christmas, when you expect it in 2018, because he doesn’t like to be predicted,” BLP General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott had warned at a St George North party branch meeting in July 2015.
The BLP has since confirmed its full slate of 30 candidates in preparation for the election, and it has been on the campaign trail in recent weeks, hosting a series of branch meetings, as it puts all its ducks in a row for the next poll, constitutionally due in early 2018.
However, even before the climax of the celebrations, two of the country’s leading political scientists had ruled out any possibility of an early general election.
Lecturer in Political Science at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies Dr Tennyson Joseph had said he had seen no signs that Stuart would ring the election bells anytime soon.
This assessment was supported by veteran pollster Peter Wickham, who had said that due to the economic situation, Stuart would likely delay the poll for as long as possible.
In justifying the position adopted by the political scientists, McClean sought to make the broader point that while governments may change over time, the public service continued to work as normal.
She compared the post-election day process here to what transpires in the United States, for example, where the president-elect takes up office more than two months after the presidential election.
“I say no more on that for several reasons, but certainly it is an interesting case study to observe what is happening. People are making all kinds of predictions but that is not my purpose here. The point I am making is that we have a system that literally overnight, where there is a change of Government, a party wins and a party loses and there is a change, but Government continues . . . work continues. That is possible because of, in the case of Barbados, the kind of public service that we have,” McClean explained.