With 7 days to go to the 2018 elections in Barbados, shocking revelations of corruption; accusations and counter-accusations and threats of more revelations are the order of the day.
The 2018 election is being called “historic” by the media. This is because, for the first time in its history, the 166 square mile Commonwealth country in the Caribbean that boasts a population of circa 270,000 persons, is faced with the possibility of a coalition government.
Barbados Electoral System Background
Since gaining independence from the British Government in 1966, the island, which celebrated its 50th year of independence in 2016, has experienced a two-party system as is the case in most of the English-speaking Caribbean islands. The Barbados Labour Party (the older party) and the DLP (Democratic Labour Party), have taken turns in forming the government in the country, often referred to in the past as “Little England”.
The country uses the first-past-the-post, single member constituency system where the parties vie for 30 available seats. The last election, which was held in 2013, was won by the incumbent party, the DLP, by a narrow margin. Barbados has one of the oldest parliaments in the Commonwealth Caribbean and, unlike England (UK), its former colonial master, its boasts a written constitution.
Enter Third Parties
What is historic about the 2018 election is that for the first time, there are a total of eight parties fielding 122 candidates, as well as 9 independent candidates vying for the 30 seat parliament. The new parties are:
- UPP: United Progressive Party
- SB: Solutions Barbados
- BIM: Barbados Integrity Movement
- BFP: Bajan Free Party
- PDC: People’s Democratic Congress
- KGB: Kingdom Government of Barbados
While the race is still felt by some to be between the older parties, on the ground, the newer parties are reporting some swing in their favour. Barbados is noted for being a very conservative society and any swing towards third parties, if true, is a reflection of the growing disenchantment with the “old boys”, blatant corruption and the dire economic circumstances in which the country finds itself.
The current economic profile is as follows:
- Foreign Debt: 113% of GDP
- Budget Deficit: -8.10 % of GDP
- Foreign Exchange Reserves: $713m
Recent Barbados Central Bank projections put growth for 2018 between -0.25% and 0.25%.
The economic state of the country is the primary election issue. Central among these are the level of foreign debt – which is at an all time high, foreign exchange reserves and government expenditure. The incumbent DLP government is being charged with mismanagement of the economy. Subsidiary issues are corruption in government, social violence as well as social services such as poor bus transportation, sanitation, water shortages and road repairs.
Coalition Government for Barbados in Sight?
Despite persistent perceptions that third parties are unlikely to make any impact in the election, the chance exists that the next Barbados Government will be a coalition. The two major parties are likely to garner double digit seats. Barring crossing the floor, a coalition will be required if neither party fails to wind 16 seats. All other things being equal, a DLP or BLP coalition is likely.
According to UK practice, the incumbent government gets the first chance at creating a coalition. If they cannot do so, the prime minister will have to resign. The leader of the largest opposition party may then be asked to form a government and may do so either as a minority or in coalition with another party or parties (Source: www.theguardian.com)