Two of the island’s well respected political scientists have independently dismissed any likelihood of the Mia Mottley Administration becoming a one-term government.
The positions were laid out Tuesday by senior political science lecturers at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr
Tennyson Joseph and Cynthia Barrow-Giles who examined the lessons learnt from Monday’s general election defeat of Allen Chastanet’s United Workers’ Party (UWP) after only one term in office.
The main Opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) of Phillip J. Pierre won 13 of the 17 seats in Parliament, with Chastanet retaining his, while former Prime Minister Stephenson King who broke away from the UWP and ran as an independent was victorious, along with another independent Richard Frederick and the only other UWP candidate John Felix.
Dr Joseph suggested that even though Chastanet’s UWP had swept aside the SLP in the 2016 poll by 11 seats to 7, the political and social dynamics of the St Lucia situation are not the same as those in the Mottley-led government.
Dr Joseph, a former Opposition Senator in St Lucia, said the political history of the Caribbean has not favoured government leaders who are business people as in the case of Chastanet.
In fact, he contended that it was quite strange and unusual when Chastanet the businessman emerged as prime minister in 2016.
“The lesson I think from it is that there is some larger developmental question…that requires us every now and then to transcend the political party…[he] who had nothing else going for him except that he had managed to wrest the United Workers’ Party into his own hand. The only way you could get him out of that, was for you to break that connection to the party… and he fell, using the same tool that he emerged to office with,” the UWI senior lecturer told Barbados TODAY.
He further explained that Barbados can learn to appreciate the role of the political party structure in the Caribbean to which residents of the region have traditionally been loyal when seeking to determine their next government.
The political scientist was certain that it was the individual leadership of Chastanet or lack thereof, which resulted in the landslide defeat.
“I have been making the point that the election was looking like a national anti- Chastanet movement…because his leadership was so rare…abnormal or disnormative… everything about his emergence to prime ministership. I mean, the last time that type of person emerged as a political leader was the night before the adult suffrage. Normally a political leader comes from the labour movement or they have some long association with a grassroots organisation or they have some track record of civic engagement or some long association
with a political party. But he has no such history,” Dr Joseph said.
The university senior rejected any notion that the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) would suffer the same fate of Chastanet’s UWP.
“Don’t forget the last time the BLP won, they won 30 seats…they won all 30 seats in the elections. For the DLP [Democratic Labour Party] to come back from the defeat from the last election, it would be very, very difficult.
And even the question of leadership [in the DLP] is not even settled yet. I don’t see any reason to expect the BLP to lose the election.
It is not a difficult thing to predict. It would be a normal thing to predict. They are not likely to have one term…I don’t see the possibility,” argued.
At the same time though, he is forecasting that the Mia Mottley Administration would more likely lose some seats mainly due to attrition.
His fellow political scientist Cynthia Barrow- Giles echoed similar sentiments with respect to the fate of the BLP in the upcoming elections.
“When you won all 30 seats to reach a situation where, in the context of what the DLP is not doing…I think there is no way I think the BLP will come close to losing the election.Yes, there have been some issues…yes people are getting disgruntled for a number of reasons.
They are frustrated for their confinement because of COVID…they are frustrated by what they see as high-handed actions by the government – one being the issue in relation to the republic which may not be a major issue – but it is just a reflection of what is going on,” Barrow-Giles stated.
Pointing out that the DLP had a 30 per cent support nationally, the UWI academic observed that its base was nevertheless eroded in the last election in 2018.
“The UWP had had almost the same level of support nationally as the St Lucia Labour Party. But this is one of the peculiarities of our electoral system that allows you to enjoy a certain level of support across a nation, but yet still constituency-wise, you are unable to win the election. I don’t see anything that is happening right now that would suggest to me that the BLP has anything to fear in relation to winning the election,” said the St Lucia-born political scientist.
She, too, predicted that the Mia Mottley Government would not be retaining its present 29 seats in the 30-seat Parliament.
“It would seem to me that the BLP is not going to hold onto all of those seats that it had before. So, not withstanding the fact that the BLP may, in terms of its support, find there is an attrition in that support, there is nothing taking place right now on the part of the Democratic Labour Party that suggests to me that they will stand a chance of replacing this administration,” Barrow-Giles told Barbados TODAY.
She stressed that the St Lucia election results should be a lesson on the need for parties to retain and build on their social capital. “I think the UWP dismantled that…I think they destroyed that social capital which is so critical for any political party to hold onto political power,” she suggested.