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Barbadians vote today after hectic campaign
The two main contestants in today’s general election in Barbados brought their hectic campaigns to a close last evening with rallies focusing heavily on their ability to manage the impact of the global economy on the nation’s declining financial fortunes. Both the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) have also been cautiously engaging pollster Peter Wickham’s Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) prediction of a resounding win for the BLP.
The CADRES poll is seeing a margin of victory of between ten and 13 seats for the BLP in the contest to fill 30 parliamentary spots. The DLP holds a 20-10 majority in the country’s House of Assembly. At a DLP rally on Tuesday, candidate Richard Sealy argued that the poll had been paid for by questionable “corporate interests.”
“Are these interests of Trinidadian extraction?” Sealy asked. Wickham has expressed surprise that the DLP should attack his most recent poll in this manner, especially since “it (DLP) took great comfort” in his previous survey, a few days earlier, which had projected a virtual stalemate, albeit with a statistical advantage for the BLP. “They (polls) both predicted a loss for the DLP,” Wickham told T&T Guardian.
When the earlier, less favourable, CADRES poll was released Sunday, BLP leader Owen Arthur was not overly concerned and was quoted as saying: “I have been in politics for 28 years now and polls are polls.”
The BLP has spent more time promoting measures it claims would ease growing inflation and unemployment, while the ruling DLP is arguing the case for “socially balanced” coping mechanisms, along with what it terms as “economically viable” and environmentally sound interventions guided by principles of good governance. The ruling party has also charged that the BLP remained committed to a programme of privatisation in the state sector—a development, it says, that will lead to further hardship for Barbadians.
The ruling party has, however, also been parrying attacks linked to what has been considered to be its poor performance in handling what the BLP terms the “Clico Debacle” which in 2011 affected more than 35,000 Barbadians. During a rally late Tuesday, incumbent prime minister Freundel Stuart, however, said the DLP had been “unfairly slandered” on the issue.
The BLP has also been accused of failing to take measures to deal with the negative fallout from the global economic crisis with Arthur suggesting at one rally that while Barbados had registered successive years of negative growth “poor Guyana” was registering steady economic growth over recent years. In return, the DLP has pointed to the potential for internal strife should the BLP be returned to office.
Stuart has himself referred to open conflict within the BLP, citing the infighting that led to Arthur’s return as political leader of the party following a no-confidence motion against former attorney general Mia Mottley in 2010. A note reportedly passed by Arthur to Stuart in parliament last year has also been making the campaign rounds. In the hand-written note, Arthur suggests that Stuart should take Mottley off his (Arthur’s) hands. Arthur dismissed the note as simply part of usual parliamentary banter.
For last evening’s activities, the BLP’s “Rally for a Better Tomorrow” was expected to feature soca artist Lil Rick, Serenader, Paula Hinds and Gabby. By contrast, the DLP chose to stage a “Gospel Hour” ahead of scheduled speeches by Stuart and other frontline speakers. There are more than 245,000 registered electors for today’s polls with 68 candidates vying for 30 seats in the country’s House of Assembly. Voting starts at 6 am and closes at 6 pm.
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