At least one political pundit has given the Freundel Stuart led Democratic Labour Party (DLP) a failing grade for its campaign, in the lead up to tomorrow’s highly anticipated general election.
At the same time, University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer in Political Science and International Relations Dr Kristina Hinds said though the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Solutions Barbados and the United Progressive Party (UPP) ran much better campaigns than the DLP, they all fell short in terms of their level of preparedness.
Following Stuart’s announcement at the end of April that the general election would be held on May 24, the BLP was first out the blocks with its campaign launch on May 5.
This was followed by the DLP’s campaign launch the following night.
The incumbent DLP released its manifesto on Thursday, May 17, seven days after the BLP launched its promissory election document.
The UPP introduced its full slate of candidates on May 13, while Solutions Barbados, who had introduced its promissory election document about three years ago, officially introduced all of its 28 candidates two nights ago.
Giving her assessment of the campaign, which is climaxing tonight with major rallies by the country’s two main political parties, the DLP and the BLP, Hinds told Barbados TODAY it fell short of her expectations.
“Most of us expected [the election] to be held well before now, so I think that the level of preparedness by some of the political parties was not what I would have expected because everybody knew this election was coming,” she said.
“I would have thought that you would have taken the full five years . . . [to prepare to present] the public with your plan for the future, with your candidate, with whatever you propose to do, [and] would have been a lot better put together,” Hinds said of the DLP’s manifesto launch.
She also called out the DLP for its decision on a candidate for St John, which she said was done “extremely late”.
In terms of the quality of speeches on the political platform, Hinds told Barbados TODAY it appeared that the DLP spent most of its time criticizing the Opposition BLP, while the BLP, Solutions Barbados and the UPP were focused on their plans, which may not all be achievable.
“The UPP and Solutions Barbados, those two in particular, you even saw more discussion of visions and plans for the future than was evident in the Democratic Labour Party campaign.
“To be fair to the DLP they did attempt after the first week to really highlight what they achieved over the ten-year period. Most of these achievements that they have pointed out were not necessarily in the economic sphere [but] in education and social policy to some extent. They also attempted to make some defence of the kind of austerity approaches and increases in taxes that occurred over the last ten years,” Hinds said in her evaluation.
The election is seen as a straight fight between the DLP and the BLP, despite the presence of other parties and independents making for a total of 135 candidates.
While staying away from making any prediction as to who will win, the UWI academic insisted that the DLP’s position had “weakened significantly” and it would be “reflected in the results of the votes”.
However, she did not believe the four-week political campaign was “dirtier” than any previous one, but suggested that people’s expectations of what they wanted to hear had changed.
“So my sense is that people don’t really want to hear a lot of personality bashing, questions about people sexuality, who dresses how and who looks how, especially because there is a feeling that Barbados is in a level of crisis,” she said.
In any event, Hinds has not ruled out the possibility that one of the so-called ‘third parties’ causing an upset in tomorrow’s election.
“There are so many small parties that we don’t know how they will affect the votes. What I will say is that I do not expect UPP or Solutions Barbados or any of these newer parties to gain any seats, but I think their candidates can gain some votes that will affect the fortunes of either BLP or DLP candidates,” Hinds explained.
Meantime, in a separate interview, Leader of Solutions Barbados Grenville Phillips II said he was confident of victory. In fact, he said: “We are very confident and we are expecting at least 20 [seats]” based on its plan for economic prosperity.
He however regretted that there was not a “proper” national debate on the economy.
“That is a great tragedy for Barbados because at least Barbados would have seen the difference in plans,” he said, pointing out that economists and others have basically rubbished the BLP plan and were somewhat “unkind” to the DLP’s plan because it would result in austerity.
“We really would have liked to have a national debate that the Barbadian public could have known – if they have the misfortune tomorrow of electing the Dees or the Bees, they would have voted to suck salt,” Phillips said, while describing his candidates as innovators.