The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is all but certain to retain four seats in the next general election, but St Michael South represented by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is not among them, according to pollster and political scientist Peter Wickham.
Wickham’s prediction is consistent with the findings of the recently-concluded series of Pulse of the People random surveys in all 30 constituencies conducted by Barbados TODAY in the lead up to the election due by the middle of next year.
In keeping with the survey findings, Wickham argued that Stuart should not be ruled out because, as Prime Minister, his seat ought to be safe.
However, he is under “serious pressure” from newcomer Kirk Humphrey of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), who is in with a chance to steal the constituency from the DLP leader.
Meanwhile, Wickham endorsed the Pulse of the People finding that St Michael North West represented Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, St Philip North held by Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley, St Philip West where the incumbent is Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick and St John, represented by Mara Thompson, were safe DLP seats, saying they acted as firewalls for the incumbent.
“Those to me are the four seats. The Prime Minister’s seat should be a safe seat, but that one is under some serious pressure . . . and your interviews with that are consistent with what I have been hearing and feeling on the ground scientifically. If I take the national swing and I impose the national swing on various constituencies, that is the formula that you are coming up with, that you are having a few DLP safe seats,” he told Barbados TODAY, reiterating that the swing was away from the incumbent.
The Pulse of the People surveys had found that while Sinckler was likely to lose some support, he had a firm grip on his constituency.
Wickham explained that this was so because the incumbent was playing the right kind of local politics.
“You mentioned Chris. I agree with you . . . that is a safe seat, and it is a safe seat for a couple of reasons. He has a good base going in, but it is also a constituency where his style of politics sells well. A lot of housing areas, a lot of needy people; and when you are in a position to satisfy individual needs, it goes a long way in those kinds of areas,” Wickham said.
He also said it would be difficult to oust Lashley from St Philip North because of his strong showing in the last two general elections.
In 2008, Lashley won 68 per cent of votes cast in his constituency, second only to David Thompson who polled 83 per cent in St John, while he won by more votes than any other candidate in 2013, securing the support of 4,053 voters, ahead of the 4,025 votes by Mara Thompson, who first won the St John seat in January 2011, following her husband’s death in October 2010.
On the other hand, the political scientist said that seat could be up for grabs if there was any truth to reports that Mara Thompson was withdrawing from the race.
“Mara of course is St John. What I worry about are rumours of her not returning. To me that is a game-changer. But in a sense, once she does go, it would be business as usual and that one would be one of the [vulnerable] seats,” Wickham suggested, while also predicting that Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who represents St Philip South, was among the most vulnerable DLP incumbents “because his was the most narrow St Philip seat . . . and the whole of St Michael, the whole of Christ Church and St George, I think is vulnerable to the Barbados Labour Party”.
However, he insisted there was no guarantee that the BLP would win all the “vulnerable” seats.
The Barbados TODAY random polls found that DLP candidates were being hurt by the tough economic conditions facing the country, with a large percentage of Barbadians insisting it was time for a change.
The survey also found an apparent growing interest in so-called third parties, a great sense of apathy in some constituencies, significant levels of indecision, and large numbers of DLP supporters who planned to stay home, because while they were disappointed in their party, they could not find it within themselves to vote for the BLP.
While Wickham all but dismissed the third parties, he thought the findings that national issues would greatly influence the way people vote were spot on.
“I know when elections come the third party is not going to have an impact. So that is one of the concerns I would have had coming out of it that the third party seems to be more popular than it is . . . and it has a lot to do with that vocal minority that you have been speaking to.
“The prevailing climate to me is the factor in this election and you seemed to [have picked] that up in your exercises, that you are saying that in all instances the prevailing economic climate, people are voting on that and that’s the concern. The reality is that, scientifically, that is spot on,” the Director of the Caribbean Development Research Service Inc said, adding that his own polls found that Barbadians intended to vote on national issues.
“When we ask people what is the main reason that they are voting . . . they are voting national leadership, they voting national issues, they voting the cost of living, they voting their pockets. That to me is the main issue that resonates. If you go at the level of the constituency and you ask people about constituency issues . . . things about roads and what’s not are secondary to the fact that people got to live,” he added, while refusing to predict the final seat-count for the upcoming election.