Former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of The West Indies George Belle is accusing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of abusing his power by delaying the announcement of an election date well past the dissolution of Parliament.
Stuart allowed Parliament to dissolve automatically on March 6 and held on for 51 of the additional 90 days allowed by the Constitution, before announcing through the Barbados Government Information Service today, that the election would be held on May 24, with May 7 as Nomination Day.
However, Belle told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview after the announcement, the 90-day period was intended for emergencies, and since none existed, Stuart had overstepped his bounds.
“The election is overdue by 51 days. So it is not a case of calling it before anything as the Constitution says you have five years and the five years are up and therefore it should have been called already. He went into the period of flexibility that is given to the process, as the Constitution does not want to be mechanical. So it gives flexibility in cases where there is a problem, and there was no problem,” Belle said.
“He abused the period by taking it for no proper reason. What you are saying is if you have no Parliament in place, you have an executive Cabinet and he is the boss of that Cabinet. As the Cabinet is dependent on the life of the Prime Minister it means that there is nothing to check him. I described it as a de facto dictatorship, which means by fact and not by law he is engaging in dictatorial behaviour because there is no accountability, no check and balance on what he can do in that period other than the law,” he stressed, adding that the May 24 date suggested Stuart was not confident of retaining Government, but was holding on to ensure he attended “those big meetings that he was supposed to go to this month in the Commonwealth and Latin America”.
The political scientist also said it was time for a review of the Constitution in order to improve governance.
He said it would be up to the authorities to determine the process, but it should involve the Barbadian population.
“The time has come for a general constitutional review in which the entire Constitution is looked at and takes into account to see where governance can be improved with changes in the Constitution and what they would involve,” Belle said.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has expressed concern about the possible impact that a May 24 poll could have on regional examinations.
Several Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination subjects are to be written on both days, leaving BLP leader Mia Mottley to wonder whether first-time voters who are also set to write those exams would not feel conflicted.
Veteran pollster Peter Wickham shared similar concerns, telling Barbados TODAY Stuart owed the country an explanation.
“The concern I have, I am anxious to hear the explanation as to what was the logic of the long wait. The fact that he did not make the announcement and this is what he intended to do and also . . . how you will explain the displacement that this will cause to people doing exams and things of that sort,” Wickham said.