The new political parties that emerged recently have no foundation and no chance in the general election due next year, according to David Comissiong, the controversial political activist and leader of the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP).
In fact, Comissiong believes the new movements “should not even be considered as political parties” in the absence of a history of engagement, a philosophy or political agenda.
Any serious party, he said, would not spring up shortly before an election with little to show in terms of its history and guiding principles.
“I don’t consider those entities parties. I encourage anybody who wants to get involved in the public and political life to do so, so I welcome any involvement. But honestly, if you are going to designate yourself as a political party with any credibility then you can’t jump up within a few months of an election and say, ‘here we are’. You need to have been engaged in the society, in the important issues that confront the people; you need to have been showing that commitment over a period of time, you also need to have a philosophy, you need to have a policy agenda,” Comissiong told Barbados TODAY.
Already this year, Barbados Integrity Movement (BIM) led by Neil Holder, and the United Progressive Party (UPP) under the chairmanship of former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) senator Lynette Eastmond, have announced plans to contest the poll. Both parties are said to comprise mainly disgruntled BLP rejects, and join Solutions Barbados, under the leadership of Grenville Phillips II, as the new parties bidding to upset the established parties – namely the main Opposition BLP and the ruling Democratic Labour Party.
While Solutions Barbados, made up only of business people, has named nine candidates, the UPP had named only one, and BIM is yet to announce a single person to carry its banner.
Comissiong said that was not good enough, insisting that a credible political party needed time “to have engaged in a process of discussing a policy agenda with the people of the country, the people that you claim to want to govern and lead”.
“So . . . while I welcome these kinds of developments, I am saying it seems to me that they are not deeply routed enough to qualify as genuine political parties. I don’t want to pour cold water, but I know what it is to go up against those two traditional parties. It is not easy,” he stressed.
Comissiong’s own party, the PEP, has yet to make any impact on the electorate since it was launched in 2006 as a electoral wing of the Clement Payne Movement. It fielded four candidates in the 2008 general election, polling 235 votes, or 0.16 per cent of ballots cast. And while he had said in May last year that the PEP had been “resuscitating its political programme” and it would “be fielding candidates next election” with the focus on youth, Comissiong told Barbados TODAY his party would only consider contesting the upcoming ballot if it were the wish of the Barbadian public.
“The People’s Empowerment Party still exists. I have been very active over the last several years but the party itself as an institution has not had an active political life since the last general election. You never say never, [and] they say a week in politics is a long time. If it should become evident that there is a role for the People’s Empowerment Party to play in the next election and if the people send a message to us [we will contest].
“Right now I am focused on trying to see how I can help to nurture a kind of citizens civil society movement in our country because I feel that the two-party system is fundamentally flawed. The key to dealing with that flaw really is to have an energized and active citizenry making demands of that system, making demands of those parties, making them accountable to the people, therefore I am trying to play that kind of role,” the social activist stressed.