by Randy Bennett
For the first time in Barbados’ political history, candidates in a by-election will face off in televised debates.
This was revealed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley this evening during a hastily called press conference at the Barbados Defence Force headquarters, St Ann’s Fort, where she announced the dates for the upcoming by-election in St George North.
Mottley revealed Nomination Day would be held on October 26, while constituents would go to the polls on November 11.
Flanked by Attorney General Dale Marshall, Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training Santia Bradshaw and Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor, Mottley said Governor General Dame Sandra Mason had officially been notified of the pending dates.
She said as was customary a special date would be provided for foreign electors, police and security forces.
The Prime Minister explained that candidates contesting the by-election would have three opportunities to impress during three debates which will be aired live on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) leading up to elections.
Mottley said the debates would be held as fewer political rallies were expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would like to say to you that this is an unusual election because it comes in the middle of a global pandemic and to that extent we are asking not just our own selves as a party, but all parties and all candidates and all constituents to recognize it is not business as usual.
“We recognize that there will likely be far less political rallies than would normally be the situation in an election. There will be some and I think that we have managed to be able to work out the spacing issue, but it also means there will be challenges in terms of the intensity of interaction,” Mottley acknowledged.
“To that extent the Cabinet has been consulted and we have agreed that the CBC and all of the media houses along with the Barbados Association of Journalists should meet, because the CBC is prepared to make available for the country broadcast time for three debates within the election, because we accept that persons must be informed and persons must be capable of making informed choices.”
So far, four candidates have been named to contest the historic by-election.
They are Toni Moore of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP); the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) Floyd Reifer; Grenville Phillips II for Solutions Barbados and the United Progressive Party (UPP) will be represented by Ambrose Grosvenor.
The Opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) is expected to announce its candidate at a political rally tomorrow. It is understood that the PdP’s candidate will be businessman David Waldron.
The Prime Minister said due to the global pandemic changes would also have to be made to accommodate voters.
She said there was a need to “be able to further dilute the density”, noting that fewer persons would be allowed in any voting room.
Mottley said she expected Barbadians to behave sensibly and be responsible when voting.
“We hope that persons will in fact cooperate and be sensible and recognize that we have a Constitutional responsibility to build the seats of Parliament, but we also can do so in a way that does not put people at risk in any way,” Mottley pointed out.