With the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in rebuilding mode, the two-year-old United Progressive Party (UPP) is moving to break the two-party grip on Barbadian politics, UPP leader Lynette Eastmond has told Barbados TODAY.
And it has begun its own rebuilding effort by dropping its entire slate of 23 candidates who stood for Parliament in the May 24 elections and is starting afresh.
With her political party gaining a meagre 1.3 per cent of the popular vote, the former Barbados Labour Party minister and senator who became founding chairman of the UPP, has suggested the party might never have a better opportunity to catch up to the major contenders on the political landscape.
“It is a case of us now taking advantage while one of the two major parties is wounded and is now seeking to rebuild,” Eastmond said, referring to the DLP, which suffered an embarrassing loss in the general election, securing only 22 per cent of the votes cast and failing to win a single seat. The DLP has since elected the twice defeated Verla De Peiza as president.
Political pundits have argued that De Peiza was placed at the helm to jump-start the process of bringing new blood into the 63-year-old party following the 30-0 decimation in the election at the hands of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
A number of party stalwarts, including former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, former Minister of Education Ronald Jones and former Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, have announced their retirement from politics. Additionally, the party was rocked by scandal earlier this month with the arrest of former Minister of International Business Donville Inniss, who is set to answer money laundering charges in New York tomorrow.
Eastmond, a four time losing candidate, and who was elected to lead the UPP for another year when the party held its inaugural conference last Saturday, acknowledged that taking advantage of the DLP’s wounded state would require hard work.
“Our thinking is that we are in a very good position, but it does require work. It is true that we contested one election, but a lot of dedication and commitment is now required over the next four years. I believe that I have a team that is up to that task and we believe that we are in a better position given the outcome of the last election,” she told Barbados TODAY.
But the party has retained none of the 23 candidates who contested the election three months ago, Eastmond said, suggesting that would-be UPP candidates would need to canvass on their own steam in order to get the nod from the party when the selection process begins.
“Our position is that at the end of the election, seeing that none of us were successful, all of the seats are open again. Individuals who are interested in running again are being told that they can identify the seat that they are interested in and start working in that seat. If the person had won a seat then their case would have been the strongest but at this point all candidates would have to go through a selection process again,” the UPP leader said. She could not pinpoint a timeframe for candidates to be confirmed.
“I can’t give an exact date but suffice it to say we have to give the candidates enough time to court their constituents. So, the sooner the better, but anybody interested in running should start working from now,” she added.
In a general election that saw a record number of ‘third’ parties and independents contesting the 30 seats that would all be snapped up by the BLP, the UPP came in a distant fourth place in the popular vote, behind the business-oriented Solutions Barbados.
Of the 150,141 voters who cast their ballots on May 24, the UPP polled 1,965 votes, less than half that 4,188 votes secured by Solutions Barbados.
The Democratic Labour Party, suffering the worst defeat in Barbadian electoral history, received 33,985 votes, while the Barbados Labour Party’s landslide victory reaped an historic 74.58 per cent of the popular vote with 111,968. firstname.lastname@example.org