Congratulations to the honourable Mia Amor Mottley, the first female Prime Minister of Barbados. And congratulations to her entire team on an outstanding and decisive victory at the polls on May 24. ‘Historic’ has perhaps become an overused word in describing the results of the 2018 elections. But ‘historic’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘memorable’, ‘extraordinary’ and especially ‘red-letter’ are all words that can aptly describe the events and outcome of Barbados’ 2018 elections.
It was a battle well planned, well-structured and very well fought. The spoils of this battle are truly deserving to the victors. There are many lessons that will be learned from these elections, lessons that will last generations and lessons that will resound throughout this region.
I stood at Weymouth at the launch of the BLP’s campaign amongst the thousands of Barbadians who made it there that evening and I felt the anxiety and anticipation as speaker after speaker spoke to promised hope and restoration. I stood again at Kingsland at the launch of the Manifesto with thousands and once more felt the desire for change and hope in a better Barbados. In Oistins, the atmosphere was no different except that disgust was added when questionable practices by the previous administration were highlighted. And finally, on Bay Street, the night before elections with so many, many more Barbadians, of all walks of life, faiths, ethnicities, economic classes, lifting their voices in unison for change and for a brighter, better tomorrow. As I made my way through the thousands of people assembled, all standing shoulder to shoulder, most wearing red and finally stopping in the middle of Bay Street, watching the events unfold on one of the large screens mounted, I could not help but think “wow” Barbados will change.
The mood that night was electric, full of anticipation and hope. I could sense that the people there just wanted to get to the polls as soon as possible. As people left there that night, the excitement was showing, polls here we come.
Voters heeded the call to get out early to the polls in most constituencies as the media reported long lines from early. I got to my polling booth at 6:30 a.m. and spent an hour in the line before I could place my X. In that line – people, young and old, not many words being said but focus on the task at hand. Despite the several challenges, voters made their way and did their civic duty. And at 6 p.m. when the polls closed, once more the atmosphere in Barbados was tense, anticipation again and anxiety. The long delay to start the count did not ease that tension but added to the trepidation. Glued to my television, radio and internet as I am sure most Barbadians were, here and overseas, it was a moment in Barbadian history worth staying awake the entire night.
As the first results came in, it was clear what was about to take place – a political tsunami the likes of which Barbados has never witnessed before. And when the dust settled at around 3:30 a.m., all 30 seats had gone the way of the BLP. The DLP was decimated.
Peter Wickham has pointed out that the voter turnout in this election was low compared to past elections, around 60 per cent. Of that 60 per cent turnout, a whopping 74 per cent voted for the BLP, 22 per cent for the DLP and 4 per cent for the other parties/candidates. As predicted, the third parties and independent candidates did not figure in the election outcome. This was a clear fight between the two main political giants in Barbados, with the BLP winning by way of a knockout, not a technical knockout but by 30 decisive blows.
If the turnout was lower than usual and the overwhelming number voted in favour of the BLP, then it could mean that hardcore DLP supporters did not turn up to vote. Therefore, both by voting against and by not voting, a total rejection of the DLP, its policies, practices, and candidates took place. Indeed, in this whole experience are lessons for everyone, especially politicians and those who are political aspirants.
The power of the people is the ultimate power in elections. Bar widespread corruption, the people will put you in power and remove you from power (by the will of God). Barbadians clearly made their feelings felt at the polls. And as such, it should be a lesson that political leaders should never take the Barbadian voting public for granted. A campaign cannot be run on vilification, insults and demeaning others; you are insulting the intelligence of the Barbadian electorate if you think that is what will bring voters to your camp. I heard persons expressing their disgust at what was being hurled from platforms in front of young children. Stick to the issues at hand and offer your plan for the development of Barbados, defend your record if there is one to defend. This is one of the lessons of these elections. Fake news, defamation and vilification may work in other countries but clearly Barbadians will not tolerate such here.
Persons have expressed concern that there is a lack of opposition and questioned who will be the checks and balances on the Government? Well, as my cousin pointed out in a response to a Facebook post, we, the people, will be the opposition. The people must provide the checks and balances needed to keep our leaders on the straight. These elections have proved the power of the electorate. That power should be understood as being available not only at elections every five years but always present. Be constantly vigilant and don’t ever let Barbados reach the position again that we have to go to the polls to reject everything from a particular party.
There is a climate of hope and expectation as this new administration settles into their promise to rescue, restore and rebuild Barbados. They have been given a tremendous mandate. They have hit the ground running and I am sure Barbadians will be generous during the traditional honeymoon period. If they do as they promise, then the people will be confident and help in restoring Barbados’ pride of place in the nations of the Caribbean.
We all have to work together to get the task achieved. We have the hope and the motivation now. Let not that flame be diminished but instead burn even brighter as we proceed on this mission.
Almighty God’s guidance on the new administration and may Barbados and Barbadians have much better days ahead.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)