A general election in the life of a sovereign state is serious business.
In fact, it is the cornerstone of democracy for citizens to freely choose without fear or favour the team who they trust and deem most capable of presiding over their affairs.
An election is about serious options. Voters get the opportunity to say with their ballots what issues matter most to them, how they want them handled and who is in the best position to get the job done.
Since its first election under universal suffrage on December 13, 1951, Barbados has had a long, proud tradition of vibrant, transparent elections that have cemented our reputation as a well-run democracy.
Elections were not reduced to games, a trivial sideshow or a spectacle. Men and women of the likes of Errol Walton Barrow, Tom Adams, Dame Billie Miller, The Late Sir Richard Haynes, Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, Owen Arthur and more, though far from perfect, took on the task of charting a course for this tiny rock in a world which has little patience or mercy for small island developing states trying to claim their place.
In just under two months this country is expected to hold constitutionally due elections. There is no shortage of serious questions facing Barbados in 2018 – not just who will run the country for the next five years, but on a wide range of critical economic and social challenges.
Therefore, the 2018 election is not primarily about personalities, whether Barbados elects its first female Prime Minister, whether a record seven parties are competing, who does a deal or who forms a coalition with whom. But it is an election where national issues and the people must be at the centre since the results will set the course for our future.
But never has an election felt so unequal to the discussion this country so desperately needs and deserves.
If the automatic dissolution of Parliament on March 5 wasn’t uncanny enough, there is an increasing level of absurdity that is more vexing than hilarious. Almost daily inane behaviour and baffling comments have become the political discourse distracting voters from the serious issues at stake.
It is hard to believe that with a virtually lifeless economy badly in need of resurrection, at the height of a long running, crippling sewage crisis; a decline in the delivery of social services and a litany of other woes that our Prime Minister could leave the country on what seems to be auto pilot, promising to announce a date soon, while glibly telling supporters of the Democratic Labour Party that “history is made by doing things differently.
“I did not dissolve it deliberately…This is the first time in Barbados’ history that a Parliament was allowed to stand dissolved by effluxion of time. That is how history is made,” said Mr Stuart.
We stay clear of dictating to the Prime Minister how he should run his affairs, but there’s no evidence that inordinate delay is the remedy for glaring problems.
But we leave it up to history to decide.
Then there was entry of former prostitute Natlee into the political fray.
And before you could recover from that shock factor, the announcement came yesterday that a new political party was in the making – the Political Prostitutes Party.
Already Barbadians have taken their views to social media.
One poster declared, “ I will be launching a campaign for Ninja Man [a popular street character].”
Another said, “this 2018 campaign is “bout real jokers and people suffering”.
While another person questioned, “where are all these termites crawling out from. They are only making my country the laughing sport of the Caribbean.”
Enough is enough!
Are we comfortable that this election campaign will be defined by the preposterous?
Certainly not, when a new Government will have to figure out how to meet millions in foreign debt payments; how to save our troubled dollar; how to arrest violent crime; how to prevent more people from falling into poverty; how to adequately provide for the most vulnerable; how to build new enterprise and attract fresh investment and much more.
It is critical that political hopefuls raise their game and even more important for the electorate to be discerning.
Barbadians will ultimately decide how they cast their ballots and we caution that that decision should be made on the basis of policies rather than on the comical and ludicrous.