The indomitable Ms Mia Mottley
Barbados Prime Minister Ms Mia Mottley

Barbados Prime Minister Ms Mia Mottley does not only deserve our congratulations on her emphatic victory in last Wednesday's general election, in which she led the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to consecutive 30-0 wins, once again making history.

Ms Mottley continues to mesmerise the global public with her bold utterances, notably her sharp, uncompromising challenge to world leaders at last year's COP26 Climate change conference at the United Nations.

She followed that up by cutting ties to the British monarchy to make Barbados the world's youngest republic, and declaring Bajan international superstar Ms Robyn 'Rihanna' Fenty, a national heroine.

At her swearing–in ceremony as prime minister on Thursday, she made another intriguing statement — that given her BLP's total blowout of the Opposition, she would become her own Government's “chief opposition when necessary”.

It would be reasonable to argue that rather than hurt her, those actions have benefitted Ms Mottley. Wednesday's victory was a translucently clear endorsement of her tenure as prime minister since 2018.

She became leader of Government in exceedingly difficult, fiscal and financial circumstances, compounded by the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic which contracted the mono-sectoral economy's tourism sector.

Appointing Rihanna as a national hero was particularly risky but it was well received, confirming her understanding of the Barbadian people and their capacity to overcome their traditional conservative mindset.

During her first term she restructured the national debt and boosted international reserves six-fold, restoring confidence in the currency. But economic growth remains elusive. Output stagnated for a decade and a half even before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an 18 per cent slump in 2020.

Still, having every seat in the House can be both a plus and a minus. It is a plus in the sense that she can move the Government and country in new and creative policy directions. But the absence of an official Opposition can be a problem.

She must therefore seek to deepen democracy beyond parliamentary opposition, by giving as much latitude to backbenchers in the Lower House and the independent senators, which she wisely allowed in 2018.

That is something that Jamaica did in 1983 when the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) boycotted snap elections, leaving the then ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in control of all 60 seats in Parliament.

Ms Mottley will find that she cannot be her own opposition because schizoid mental gymnastics are not possible. She must keep in mind that less than 50 per cent of the electorate voted, which is lower than in previous general elections. That may reflect the impact of the pandemic but is not a majority.

We note that main Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Leader Verla De Peiza has stepped down, in classic Westminster-style, having her message that it was “reckless” to call a snap election amid a surge in COVID-19 cases rejected.

Painful as a consecutive blowout must be, the DLP must regroup and avoid falling into a comatose state, for the sake of Barbadian democracy. The alternative perspective that an opposition can bring is indispensable.

We extend to Ms Mottley and the Barbadian people our sincere good wishes as they tackle the myriad challenges which confront them.

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