THE FIELDS AND HILLS of St John were alive last night with the sound of “Mara, Mara!”.
Mara Thompson, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate and widow of late Prime Minister David Thompson, created history in Barbadian politics about 11:25 p.m. at The Lodge School, when Returning Officer Richard Harris declared her the winner of the St John by-election, after she had crushed her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) opponent Hudson Griffith by a massive 4 613 votes to 553.
It was the first occasion the widow of a parliamentarian had replaced her husband as constituency representative in the House of Assembly.
Thompson won all of the 23 boxes counted with her highest tally (527) coming in the JA2 Polling Station representing Coach Hill, Pot House and the surrounding areas. Griffith’s best effort was reflected in the JB2 station covering Mount Tabor, Venture, Sherbourne and Clifton Hall where he tallied 96 votes to Thompson’s 363.
Thompson surpassed the performance of her late husband who gained 4 300 votes in the 2008 general election. Griffith’s 553 was far less than that of party colleague Tyrone Power who received 829 votes in 2008.
Griffith’s failure to get at least one-sixth of the overall 5 166 votes cast meant that he would forfeit his $250 election deposit.
An animated crowd, which steadily grew to about 400, braved the cold wind and damp conditions to gather outside the counting centre at the school from about 7 p.m. Thompson, accompanied by daughters Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie, arrived at the school about 10:55 p.m. to tumultuous acclaim from the crowd, many bedecked in yellow apparel.
As the results of the various boxes were announced, sections of the crowd started chanting: “She’s royal.”
One supporter humorously demanded a recount, shouting: “Griffith getting too much votes!”
When Harris made his final announcement it was the signal for rapturous cheers and chants of “Mara, Mara”. The victor emerged from the counting station, spoke briefly to the media and then went into the arms of her adoring supporters, who loudly acclaimed her as their “queen”.
Neither Griffith nor his campaign manager Deputy Opposition Leader Dale Marshall was present at The Lodge School. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, Minister of Housing Michael Lashley, Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Transport and Works John Boyce and Senator Peter Gilkes were among the DLP members at the school.
A beaming Thompson described the victory as “fantastic” and thanked the people of St John for their support. She praised Boyce for the way he managed her campaign, as well as for the support she had received from Prime Minister Stuart, colleagues and constituency branch president Cleeton Coppin.
“I am happy that as of tomorrow I am the chief servant of the people of St John,” she said.
Stuart said the people of St John would benefit from Thompson’s resilience and strength of character which she had shown during the by-election campaign in the face of the vilification to which she had been subjected on the BLP platform.
Stuart said Opposition Leader Owen Arthur had suggested that the by-election would have been a referendum on the Government, but that he had “got it wrong” and it turned out to be a “thunderous rebuff” of the BLP. He stated it had been a referendum on the Opposition and its conduct in the public domain and the BLP had been “found guilty”.
“It was a judgement on the quality of politics which they brought to this campaign and the new depths to which they sunk . . . ,” he said.
The celebrations meanwhile continued way into the night with Thompson leaving The Lodge School and arriving at the Gall Hill Community Centre at midnight where a victory party was already in full swing.
“Thank you, the good people of St John. I am happy to do this for you, I am overwhelmed. I love you, let’s celebrate,” Thompson told hundreds who had waited on her arrival.
Her entrance there was to the loud sounds of the Sister Sledge hit song We Are Family and her exit to the sounds of the Taurus Riley hit She’s Royal – after being crowned with a glistening tiara.