The whirlwind 23-day campaign of 2022 has ended.
There’s been a popular view, rightly or wrongly, that the result of the January 19 election is virtually a foregone conclusion; that is, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) will regain power, though with fewer seats.
On the other hand, there’s the suggestion that the ball is in the court of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to demonstrate that it can emerge from the political wilderness to which it was banished by voters after the May 2018 general election.
Pundits, too, have long contended that election results are more a referendum on the party in power and less about the so-called government-in-waiting.
But for all the analysis and debate, the outcome lies solely in the hands of the voter.
Come 6 a.m. Wednesday, over 92 per cent of the Barbadian population or 266,330 people registered to vote are expected to make their trek to polling stations around the island to exercise their franchise in the first general election since Barbados became a republic last November.
Undoubtedly, the process is overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has changed everything, from how the campaign is conducted to how we vote to what we value.
A sore issue for many has been the disenfranchisement of possibly thousands of voters either in self-isolation or at a government facility who were not allowed to be part of the critical choice of a new administration.
May we never allow this blot on our democracy to ever surface again.
It’s perhaps all the more reason for those of us who are able to get out and vote to do so safely. Nothing should stop you from turning in your ballot this year, not even a pandemic. After all, we head to work, go to the supermarket, the gym and the beach. So we can vote, adhering fully to the protocols: wear your masks, sanitize and maintain adequate physical distance.
Tomorrow’s vote is an important decision considering the realities we face, a COVID-19 pandemic that is clearly far from over, considerations regarding building our new republic and of course, the revival of our economy, among others.
Does one party have the best solution to each and every key issue? It is something each voter must determine for themselves by delving into the policies of each party.
In this election, the incumbent Barbados Labour Party has campaigned on its record of stabilizing the Barbados economy, reducing the public debt, substantially boosting the foreign reserves, restoring free university education, clearing the southern streets of sewage, raising the pay of civil servants and ably managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mia Mottley has insisted the choice is clear particularly if Barbadians want to move the country forward. In its manifesto, the BLP pledges to make 10,000 homes available for Barbadians; gift first-time homeowners under the age of 35 a $3,000 grant; eliminate land tax on the first $400,000 of Barbadians property value and develop the Barbadian Wealth Fund which will be owned by every Barbadian adult.
Democratic Labour Party President Verla De Peiza has touted a rebranded party that wants to see a new democracy that can benefit all Barbados. The DLP in its manifesto has pledged to provide significant tax ease for householders and pensioners and regulation of bank fees should it form the next Government.
The DLP has outlined intentions to slash the burdensome Garbage and Sewage Contribution levy by half, reduce import duties on “a wide range of select goods”, waive freight from the calculation of import duties and reduce the excise tax on fuel at the pump by up to 25 cents per litre.
The third party in the race, the Alliance Party for Progress, a coalition of the People’s Party for Democracy and the United Progressive Party has presented a plan to introduce a new, people-centred model of governance to Barbados.
The 46-page manifesto also outlined a post-election plan, which includes the enactment or amendment of existing legislation to allow the Auditor General to offer his findings for consideration to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to determine whether any charges should be brought against any public official or member of the private sector.
The eyes of the world have been turned to Barbados with both renewed and novel interest. They have seen the birth of the world’s newest republic. It is also timely that they should be shown a mature democracy where Wednesday’s result, whatever it may be, is accepted by all as the will of the people.