Barbados' most followed elections pollster, Peter Wickham, yesterday was calling tomorrow's general election in favour of the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), in a contest media observers conclude is "tight."A poll, conducted by Wickham's Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) and published yesterday by Barbados Today, revised earlier findings in a survey carried last Sunday in the Barbados Nation.
That poll had signaled a virtual deadheat between the BLP and ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).T&T Guardian attempted to reach Wickham yesterday but was told he was en route to Grenada where his team monitored yesterday's election there. His Grenada poll predicted an opposition New National Party (NNP) win.
In the new voters' survey, conducted between February 15 and 18 to correct what Wickham described as a statistical "wobble" in the last set of findings, he predicted the BLP will return to office following a one-term hiatus during which leader of the ruling DLP, David Thompson, died of cancer at the age of 48.Thompson's place was taken in 2010 by incumbent prime minister and former attorney-general, Freundel Stuart.
Wickham is predicting that the BLP can win between 17 and 20 of the country's 30 seats. The DLP currently holds a 20-10 majority in Parliament. The economy has dominated campaign agendas.Speaking at a rally after midnight Monday, Stuart conceded that the country's economy had been challenged by a combination of domestic and international forces.
"Our conditions," he said, "are not different from richer and bigger countries."He criticised the Owen Arthur-led BLP for suggesting that critical economic issues could be resolved through a simple change of administration. He labeled such assertions as part of a campaign of "deception."The Prime Minister said if the BLP had the skills to tackle the "economic mayhem" confronting the western world, he was surprised the party had chosen "to keep the answers to themselves."
At a concurrent rally hosted by the BLP, Arthur accused the ruling DLP of doing nothing to address "the steepling cost of living." He said some solutions were easily available, citing the assertion that the State-owned Barbados National Oil Company was registering profits while it sold fuel to the country's electricity company at prices which served to drive rates upward.
He said the Government had "allowed this company to gouge out your eyes."The campaign rhetoric often strayed from issues of the economy to jabs about internal squabbling in the BLP leading to Arthur's return as leader of the party following a tumultuous two-year stint by his former attorney-general, Mia Mottley.Mottley was removed as Opposition Leader in 2010 following a no-confidence vote by her parliamentary colleagues. The DLP has repeatedly referred to the conflict between Arthur and Mottley which led to her removal.
However, she has featured prominently on BLP platforms during the campaign, always warmly greeted by Arthur.Stuart is also being repeatedly attacked from the platform for his laid-back style. He himself faced internal dissent in late 2011 when a CADRES poll which put him as the least desirable person within the party's leadership to run the country.There are 68 candidates seeking the support of 245,000 electors in the election.