BARBADOS – Former PM warns victory not so assured for opposition party

(CNS) – Former prime minister Owen Arthur is not yet ready to rule out a victory for the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) even though he acknowledges that the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) could benefit from the “sufficiently unpopular” DLP.

Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government. Nomination Day is May 7 and political observers say the contest will be a straight fight between the DLP, which has been in power for the last 10 years and the BLP, hoping to create history by having its leader Mia Mottley elected as the island’s first-ever prime minister.

But Arthur, a former BLP leader, who served as prime minister between 1994 to 2008, told the online publication, Barbados TODAY, that, unlike the political scientists he believes that so-called third parties and independent candidates can determine the outcome of the elections.

“The public of Barbados will go and express themselves in different ways. There are some people who will use their vote as a protest and they find there has never been a third party candidate or independent candidate, no matter how insignificant, who got zero votes. They always get votes. And where you have tied elections that few votes can decide the election,” Arthur told Barbados TODAY.

“Let me be candid. I don’t think any of the third party candidates will win but if they get enough votes where the seats are marginal, then a third party candidate can be decisive,” he stressed.

Arthur, who did not commit himself to declaring a possible winner in the elections even though he felt the DLP was “sufficiently unpopular that they might lose”, warned of a possible scenario where  “you might have what I call a Hilary election where the Barbados Labour Party gets the majority of the popular vote nationally, but it loses most of the marginal seats because third parties can get enough votes to be able to affect the election”.

Arthur, who led the BLP into the last general election here in 2013, losing by a 16-14 margin to the DLP, said that many of the candidates contesting the elections on behalf of new parties were former BLP members and that could prove to be disastrous for the main opposition party.

“That is why I have been telling the Barbados Labour Party, ‘you don’t want to go into an election based on history, where you have a third party or independent party formed out of your party to contest an election’.  I know it. I lived it.

“Independent candidates will sometimes get a few votes, but sometimes it can be enough . . . to decide the result of an election. If a third party is formed out of another party, it hurts the party out of which it is formed,” Arthur said, recalling a situation in St James South when Elizabeth Thompson was victorious.

Thompson won the seat in 1994 with 2,249 votes, beating the DLP’s Clyde Mascoll by 281 in an election in which the National Democratic Party’s Alfred McClean polled 882 and independent candidate Glenroy Straughn had the support of 58 voters.

Arthur, who stepped down from active politics earlier this year,  recalled also the City of Bridgetown constituency was won by the BLP in 2013 by 124 votes, and St James Central which the party he led into that election took by 68 votes, as two such constituencies that could be disrupted by a third party.

“I feel that the elders of the Barbados Labour Party should have found a way to make sure that the Labour Party goes into the campaign without having third-party candidates fighting against them too. I know from experience what it is,” Arthur said.

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