Political analyst Peter Wickham has described as “political folly of the highest order”, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s decision to allow Parliament to dissolve automatically without setting an election date.
The move is unprecedented in Barbados’ electoral history, and Stuart must now call the election within 90 days.
Wickham said while the Prime Minister had not breached any constitutional provisions, “the problem is he’s breaching provisions relating to common sense and political pragmatism”.
“It reinforces the long-held view that he does not make decisions well. It reinforces a view that he is really not ready for what’s happening and that he has some kind of fear. And those are the only things I can say, but we can’t judge any of that until after Election Day,” the pollster told Barbados TODAY.
“But it doesn’t help with his perception in the eyes of the majority, especially as the majority already has reservations about his proclivity to tarry in relation to decisions like this,” he added.
Wickham made reference to two instances in Caribbean politics where the prime ministers waited the full 90 days after the dissolution of parliament to call elections.
One was then Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, who at the dissolution of parliament said she would use up the entire period because she wanted to introduce term limits.
The other instance was in 2014 in Antigua and Barbuda, when then prime minister Baldwin Spencer was awaiting a court decision on boundaries.
“He could not set a date until such time that the court made a decision,” Wickham said of the Spencer decision.
“But we have a situation now where nobody knows, and it’s only a few hours since it was dissolved, but . . . there’s no justification for this. You had an entire five years to determine when you’re gonna go back to the people for a mandate and you cannot even announce a date now?”
Wickham stressed that the decision was not unconstitutional, “and it’s not anything for which he can be sanctioned for in a court of law”.
Nevertheless, he said Stuart was not buying any favours with the public by delaying the announcement.
“I remember when we did an analysis of his personality in 2013 in the polls that we did, the most distinguishing feature that came out was people said he took too long to make decisions.
“If this is a critique of his, you have a situation where he is being contrasted with an individual who is already saying what she’s going to do to fix the problem,” he said in an apparent reference to a speech on Sunday night by Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley to party supporters, in which she vowed to be transparent as a leader.
Mottley had also announced last week how she planned to deal with the vexing sewage crisis that has rocked the south coast.
“He cannot speak to the sewage problem on the south coast and he cannot even make a decision in relation to the one thing that’s imminent, which is an election. So I think it doesn’t help him at all, it hurts him. I think it is political folly of the highest order, and my only thing is that we will have to see how the public views him on Election Day, but we certainly can’t do anything before because he’s on good constitutional grounds,” Wickham said. firstname.lastname@example.org