The overwhelming victory for the ruling party in the St George North by-election is not an accurate representation of either overall support or disenchantment with the country’s two main political parties.
This is the view of political scientist Dr Kristina Hinds, who said on Thursday it would be a mistake to make assumptions based on a win in a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) stronghold.
The low turnout in Wednesday’s poll – 47 per cent – is also a concern to Dr Hinds and fellow UWI lecturer and Head of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) Dr Don Marshall.
“This seat would have always been a difficult seat for the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) to win, so I don’t think the outcome says a whole lot to me about the support. Clearly the Government is still quite popular, and we knew that even without a by-election,” said Dr Hinds.
In fact, the senior lecturer described the tremendous financial and human resources spent on BLP candidate Toni Moore’s campaign as “overkill”.
“Despite all of the resources and energy that was put into this campaign, it may have been a bit of an overkill, because this is a seat that one would have expected to go to the BLP. So I don’t know how necessary it was to put in all of that effort and energy and all of the spectacle into the St George North by-election” she said.
“That said, it is a good sign that the BLP was not complacent in assuming that because they had held this for so many years, they would keep it.”
Dr Marshall, however, admitted that he was not impressed with the DLP’s campaign, and chided the party for recycling the same “stale” brand of politics that resulted in their 30-0 defeat in the 2018 general elections.
“They need to refresh the messaging. Even as they may pay attention to things local and parochial, as Floyd [Reifer] effectively did…I think essentially he was running for a party that has not quite connected with a broad mass appeal,” he said.
“The issues that still plague our economy and society, including high levels of poverty, income inequality, high unemployment, even as we as a country enjoy good human development, those issues were not tackled in any novel way with possible solutions by the DLP since their general election loss.
“So there is a sense of staleness and absent-mindedness when it comes to speaking about things like a post-COVID future and how to recapture the imagination of Barbadians,” Dr. Marshall added.
He shared the view that along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the low voter turnout was indicative of waning political interest among the masses.
While noting that Reifer’s 1 327 votes was a respectable showing, Dr Marshall lamented that his failure to win a single box would give tremendous political “bragging rights” to the ruling party.
“The stark reality and narrative coming out of this is that, yet again, the DLP failed to win a single box at another election… and it allows the BLP to have bragging rights.
“So, to the victor, the spoils and to the victor, the bragging rights in this case.”