A recent Supreme Court ruling affirming the rights of non-nationals who satisfy the requirements under the Representation of the People Act to vote here, will not impact the outcome of the next general election, according to one of the best-known regional pollsters.
However, Peter Wickham believes the majority of those who do vote would likely support the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson made the landmark ruling last month after four non-nationals who have been living here for over a decade, legally challenged their exclusion from the voters’ list.
Wickham told Barbados TODAY that despite the ruling, he did not anticipate a rush by non-nationals to register to vote in the election, due by early June.
“I think it is of minimal value. The challenge is that while there are a lot of people who could now vote, the question is going to be the willingness of those persons to come forward and register,” the pollster said.
“I have no doubt that some of the legal persons will participate, but I can tell you that oftentimes it is difficult to get non-nationals to register for a PriceSmart card,” Wickham added, referring to the membership warehouse shopping club.
According to the 2010 census, non-nationals make up 12 per cent of the Barbadian population of approximately 270, 000.
Wickham argued that those who are inclined to vote would likely throw their support behind the BLP because of the “distasteful” attitude of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) towards them.
He made reference to the immigration reform Green Paper which was pushed by then Prime Minister David Thompson in 2009, which he said had left a bitter taste in the mouths of non-nationals.
Among other proposals, the paper recommended that children born here to at least one parent who did not have permanent residency would not be considered Barbadian citizens, while any child born here to undocumented parents could not acquire citizenship.
Wickham said while he had not done a detailed study of this issue here “because our non-national penetration is not high”, research done in 2004 in Antigua, where 30 per cent of the residents were born outside the country, found “a decisive situation where the majority of the people who were not born in Antigua were inclined to vote for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and the not the United Progressive Party [UPP]”.
“The reason for this was the fact that the UPP took the same hostile position that the Democratic Labour Party took towards them. So if I use that as the base of comparison the ones here would go with the BLP. The DLP has given very little quarter to people who are non-nationals. As a matter of fact I would go on record to say that their [DLP] attitude to non-nationals is distasteful. The Green Paper was one of the lowest days of Thompson’s administration,” the political scientist said.
St Lucian Professor Eddy Ventose, Grenadian Shireene Ann Mathlin-Tulloch, Jamaican Michelle Melissa Russell and Montserratian Sharon Juliet Edgecombe-Miller had been seeking to get their names added to the electoral list here in time for the general election, but they they claimed that when they contacted the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) they were advised that they were not eligible to be on the list, as they did not enjoy permanent residency, immigrant status or citizenship of Barbados.
The Chief Justice ruled that any decision to exclude them would be in violation of Cap 12 of the Representation of the People Act, which does not make it mandatory for the applicants to be permanent residents, immigrants or citizens of Barbados in order to vote.