ALL AH WE IS ONE: Humbled house
If a singular message was to be gleaned from the 2013 general election in Barbados it would be that the people were unable to tell the Dees from the Bees.
Thus after five years of a DLP Government, and with the previously three-term BLP Government having had an opportunity to make a case for re-election, and following an intense propaganda campaign of false debates, when called to pick a government from the two parties, the people were mobilized into indecision.
Both parties received a failing grade. A very good government is rewarded by an adequate mandate. A very good opposition is rewarded by election to office. Neither the DLP nor the BLP received these expected endorsements.
Fortunately, this message seems to have sunk in. Is it any wonder then that the usual post-election triumphalism has been absent, with even the traditional post-election holiday missing on this occasion?
This public rejection has also reflected itself in a far more sober tone in the new Parliament, as seen in the recent debate on the 2013/2014 Estimates.
Having seen its previous two-thirds majority evaporated and now reduced to a hair’s breadth, the previous unwillingness to admit wisdom in the ideas of the Opposition, and the oftentimes dismissive and jeering tone which greeted some laudable contributions, have been replaced by expressions of willingness to “reach across the aisle” and to work in the interest of the country. Only the most politically immature would dare boast of having received an absolute “mandate from the people”.
This conciliatory tone has no doubt been shocked into existence by the physical presence of the large numbers of opposition parliamentarians, and the impact of the election night count itself when many first-time DLP parliamentarians came face to face with the prospect of being thrown out of office. Their tenuous hold on government has further been reinforced by the fact that in Committee, the number of Government members is equivalent to that of the Opposition. In short, the prospects of Government measures failing, remains very high. This in itself is a condition that induces sobriety on normally arrogant politicians.
No government feels comfortable in these conditions. Could this perhaps mean that the opportunity will be sought to change the equation at the soonest?
Similarly, the Opposition is forced to acknowledge its own failure. This demands the putting aside of the usual empty politicking for its own sake, and the false grandstanding for the limelight. Instead, its every contribution must be aimed at demonstrating to the public that it should be trusted with government and that the prevailing doubts should be erased.
All in all, the 16-14 verdict has created the precious context for a new era of maturity and sobriety in government. Only those who live up to its demands may expect to survive the next round.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.