Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s decision to go down to the wire before ringing the election bells is nothing but a “cheap way” of clinging on to power, two of this island’s most prominent political scientists have charged.
And if Stuart decides to stretch the life of his Government into the 90-day period after the dissolution of Parliament it will be to his own detriment, they warned.
The Prime Minister yesterday gave his strongest indication yet that he would not be ringing the general election bell anytime soon.
With Parliament due to be dissolved by March next year if an election is not held by then, it is a constitutional requirement that the poll be called within 90 days of its dissolution.
With this in mind, Stuart told the final sitting of Parliament for 2017 that he had every intention of serving out his entire five-year term in office.
“We [the DLP administration] were given five years from February 21 until. So that is what we are going to do. And when Parliament is dissolved, the Constitution says you have to call an election within 90 days and all of that we know. So take it easy. The law is going to be observed at every point. You can be sure about that,” he said.
Political scientist Tennyson Joseph told Barbados TODAY this evening he was not surprised at Stuart’s decision, adding that the Prime Minister was approaching politics like a lawyer, and with no creativity.
“The Prime Minister doesn’t apply any political nuance to anything that he is doing – not on the economy, not on his leadership to his colleagues or how he treats his Cabinet. He is basically a very limited constitutionalist and will basically do what the constitution says in a very plastic way. On the other side, it is a kind of cheap way of holding on to power.
“In addition, he has not shown any creativity in terms of reshuffling his Cabinet. There is nothing of that style. There is no surprise in his politics,” a critical Joseph said.
The University of the West Indies lecturer in political science said anyone surprised by Stuart’s comments was not paying attention, since he had used the same argument ahead of the last general election “that basically he is going by the strict rule of the constitution”.
Joseph, who shied away from predicting the likely outcome of the next election, warned that since Stuart was “not averse to adding the 90 days” Barbadians should not be shocked if the elections were held in the middle of June.
In a separate interview with Barbados TODAY pollster Peter Wickham argued that Stuart was already down to the wire given that there were just over two months left before Parliament is automatically dissolved.
He said the use of the 90-day grace period provided by the Constitution after the dissolution of Parliament was not a practice widely used in the region, and if Stuart decided to go down that route he would be doing so at his own risk.
“There is an expectation that election will be called sooner rather than later. If he decides to go into that term he has every right to do so and I think that no one can claim he has breached any fundamental principle of the constitution, but I believe it is at his own political peril,” Wickham stressed.
The political consultant said if an election were not called sooner, “it will be worse for Stuart later”, since the population was growing “increasingly frustrated with the status quo”.
Wickham told Barbados TODAY he believed that since his public opinion poll several months ago, the Democratic Labour Party’s position had deteriorated and could decline even further.
He added that there was still “considerable distance for the Democratic Labour Party to drop and there is considerable distance for the Barbados Labour Party to rise”.
“Stuart is essentially playing Russian roulette if he believes that by continuing longer he will make the situation better,” Wickham said, while pointing out that every election had to do with strategy and he was yet to see any from Stuart.
“As I look at what is going on in Antigua right now and what is going on in Grenada, it is clear to me that both of those leaders understand the strategic advantage of calling an election at a time when people are happiest. If Prime Minister Stuart prefers not to do that and not call an election during the winter tourist season when more Barbadians are working, and he prefers to push it into March or April or worse yet, May, when the traditional low season starts, again he does it at his own peril,” said Wickham, who was speaking from Antigua.