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B'dos, Grenada governments battling to avoid one term

New problems for St Kitts PM

Analysis - Rickey Singh

Sunday, February 03, 2013    

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FINALLY, after keeping his political opponents and supporters guessing for at least the past three months, the prime minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, has announced February 21 as the date when Barbadians will trek to polling stations to elect a new Government for the next five years.

The long delay in announcing E-day had itself become a hot topic of discussion, engaging media commentators as well as strategists of Stuart's incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and its primary challenger the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of former three-term Prime Minister Owen Arthur.

The Barbados election will take place two days after that of Grenada where Prime Minister Tillman Thomas's National Democratic Congress (NDC) is facing a major challenge to avoid being a one-term government.

Both the DLP and NDC came to power within six months of each other in 2008, when the respective incumbents in Barbados and Grenada suffered massive parliamentary defeats after controlling state power for three consecutive five-year terms.

Now, Prime Minister Stuart and his Grenadian counterpart, Thomas, are bravely struggling against predictions from pollsters and political pundits that they could both end up as having led one-term administrations.

While Prime Minister Stuart's choice of February 21 has surprised many for not having any known significance, Prime Minister Thomas's decision to favour February 19 has been linked by some political analysts to a civil court case against NNP leader Keith Mitchell and wife Marieta, fixed last November by a judge in Brooklyn, New York, for hearing on February 18.

Both prime ministers Thomas and Stuart launched their campaigns by projecting high optimism for victory — contrary to indicators from pollsters and bullish responses from Arthur and Mitchell — both former three-term prime ministers.

Having earlier pointed to leadership and related problems that Prime Minister Thomas faced prior to announcing the February 19 election date, today's focus is primarily on Prime Minister Stuart's announcement and the coming February 21 election in Barbados.

PM Stuart's way

Like him or not, as political leader or prime minister, Stuart has remained stoic amid all the grilling and verbal pummelling to which he was subjected over the past three months in particular. He eventually did it his way and in his own time, by announcing, via a press release from his office last Tuesday, the election date for Barbadians.

The delay in no way violated the Constitution, though Barbadians had become accustomed to incumbent parties not staying in office beyond the date of a previous election.

In multi-party parliamentary democracies in the Caribbean Community and across the world, governing parties surprise their electorate by either announcing snap or early elections, depending on the circumstances. Or, simply keep their opponents guessing for as long as they think it expedient.

Jamaicans are familiar with such experiences, including when a snap poll results in defeat for the governing party.

Now we await official declarations of nominated candidates for the 15-member House of Representatives in Grenada and the 30-member House of Assembly in Barbados, as well as the releasing of manifestos.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Stuart had thousands of supporters gleefully waving and jumping to his very confident prediction of a second five-year term for the incumbent DLP Administration he inherited from first-time Prime Minister David Thompson, who died in October 2010 from his battle with cancer.

St Kitts saga

Meanwhile, across the Leeward islands in St Kitts and Nevis, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas's political worries within his governing Labour Party and current fourth-term administration continue to worsen with the expected resignation this past Thursday of long-serving colleague and Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor.

The Condor resignation came within three days of the dismissal by Douglas of another Labour MP, Dr Timothy Harris, who had earlier admitted to telling the prime minister that he should resign in the interest of the Government and country.

While Prime Minister Douglas still has a working majority in the federal St Kitts and Nevis Parliament, his options are increasingly narrowing and are perhaps making inevitable a snap poll as political forces in the sister isles hint of new configurations.

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