ALL AH WE IS ONE: Campaign reflections
An adequate amount of time has elapsed, and much has been said and done by the two major political parties in Barbados since the formal announcement of the 2013 general election, to allow for an analysis of the state of the campaign to date.
It is clear that the time thus far has been used by both parties to energize their bases and to test through mass mobilization the extent to which their historically loyal supporters have remained faithful. Given the large crowds attending the national meetings, both parties should be relatively pleased with the overt commitment of their bases to their respective causes. Also gratifying to both parties must be the fact that these meeting are being attended, not only by their respective die-hards, but by the wider public willing to listen to all contending ideas.
In short therefore, where the question of crowds and followership are concerned, the campaign thus far resembles a boxing match with the contenders sparring and exchanging an even number of blows and with the judges unable to separate winner from loser. Going into the last week of the campaign, each platform should be preparing itself to deliver a knockout punch that will remove any doubts on who holds the obvious advantage.
As this is being written, reports are circling of some potentially divisive comments about the future leadership of the BLP emanating from a BLP platform in St Joseph. Given the tightness of the race so far, the knockout punch, if it comes, might very well be self-inflicted.
Quite apart from the contests played around crowds, branding, music and all the associated marketing and psychological issues, is the question of the actual content of the platform itself and the wider debate of the critical issues of this election. Where the issue debates are concerned, an odd dynamic can be identified. After five years of being in government, it is peculiar that the campaign has seen the opposition BLP as the party which has been more forthright in presenting proposed solutions to the economic and other challenges facing the country, while the governing DLP has seen its role as that of pouring cold water on the measures proposed.
This dynamic emerged clearly over the CLICO issue in the last week, where the Minister of Finance sought to advance reasons why a proposal by the BLP to give satisfaction to the 35 000 CLICO policyholders in Barbados was unworkable. The downside to this is that in rejecting the opposition proposals, the Government stands in the curious position of saying why things cannot happen rather than using the campaign to show positively what its own actions have been towards resolving the issues facing the country.
Hopefully, the expected manifesto launches will help to commit the parties to clearer policy expressions. The people are demanding clarity.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.