Barbados acude a las urnas con una mujer con posibilidades de salir elegida
Los ciudadanos de Barbados acuden mañana a las urnas para elegir un nuevo Gobierno con la posibilidad de que, por vez primera, una mujer se ponga al frente del Ejecutivo de este territorio miembro de la Comunidad del Caribe (Caricom), mientras crece la preocupación por la marcha de la economía.
El primer ministro, Freundel Stuart, de 66 años, candidato del gobernante Partido Democrático del Partido Laborista (DLP, por sus siglas en inglés) en el poder, mostró optimismo ante su posible reelección.
“Hemos hecho sentirse orgulloso a este país en los últimos 10 años. Hemos tenido que gobernar Barbados en la década más crítica para el mundo occidental desde la gran depresión y hemos logrado mantenerlo estable”, dijo.
Mia Mottley, de 52 años, abogada y líder del opositor Partido Laborista de Barbados (BLP, en sus siglas en inglés), quitó importancia a los supuestos logros conseguidos por Stuart y adelantó que está lista para implementar políticas más eficientes para conseguir reactivar la economía.
El Banco Central de Barbados (CBB, en inglés) informó a principios de este mes que la economía local se había contraído en cerca de un 0,7 % durante el primer trimestre de 2018, además de advertir de que la perspectiva para el futuro es incierta.
Stuart sostiene que su Administración ha trabajado para revitalizar la economía, además de advertir a los votantes de que no se arriesguen con opciones inciertas como la que representa Mottley.
Sin embargo, Mottley, que aspira a cambiar el paisaje político masculino predominantemente en el Caribe, insiste en que “el cambio está a la vista” en Barbados.
Las elecciones de mañana suponen un récord de 135 candidatos que representan a varios partidos políticos e independientes, entre los que figuran 37 mujeres y 98 hombres y, por primera vez en la historia política de Barbados, dos formaciones, el BLP y el Partido Unido Progresista (UPP), serán encabezados por mujeres.
A pesar del aumento en el número de partidos políticos y candidatos, solo el DLP y el BLP han nominado aspirantes a los 30 distritos electorales y tienen posibilidades de ganar los comicios.
Los tribunales también han tenido protagonismo en el período electoral, ya que los residentes de otros países durante más de 3 años en Barbados llegaron hasta la Corte de Justicia del Caribe (CCJ), con sede en Trinidad y Tobago, para contar con derecho al voto.
Aunque no se ha publicado ninguna encuesta de estimación de voto a un día de los comicios, los analistas políticos señalan que la historia no favorece al DLP en estas elecciones.
Apuntan que nunca en la historia de esta isla caribeña, desde que obtuvo la independencia política de Gran Bretaña en 1996, un Gobierno no ha logrado permanecer por un período de más de 10 años en el poder.
Stuart llegó a la presidencia después de suceder a David Thompson, quien murió en octubre de 2010, aunque continuaría en el cargo después de que los votantes de Barbados le otorgaron al DLP un segundo mandato.
El DLP de Stuart ganó en febrero de 2013 por un margen de 16-14 escaños al BLP al derrotar al exprimer ministro Owen Arthur, quien advirtió estos días que independientemente de qué partido político forme el nuevo Gobierno se deberán implementar políticas profundas para reactivar una economía en caída.
El BLP promete no devaluar la moneda de la isla, dejándola vinculada a un cambio de dos dólares de Barbados por un dólar estadounidense.
Por su parte, el DLP promete reducir la carga impositiva sobre los ciudadanos para hacer crecer la economía.
Barbados es un pequeño territorio miembro de Caricom y la Mancomunidad de Naciones que se independizó del Reino Unido en 1966. El territorio caribeño cuenta con poco más de 430 kilómetros cuadrados de superficie y una población, mayoritariamente de raza negra, de 277.000 habitantes.
Barbadians go to the polls May 24
Barbadians go to the polls today to elect a new government amid growing economic concerns and the possibility of choosing a woman for the first time to lead a government in this Caribbean Community (Caricom) country.
“We have done this country proud over the last 10 years, we have had to govern Barbados in the most challenging decade the western world has seen since the Great Depression, and we have managed to not only keep Barbados stable but to ensure that those basic amenities to which Barbadians have become accustomed were made available to them on an uninterrupted basis,” said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, 66, who is leading his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) into a general election for the second consecutive occasion.
But his main challenger, Mia Mottley, 52, an attorney who heads the main Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), has dismissed Stuart’s record of achievement, telling voters that she is prepared to implement stringent policies, including taking the island to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a bid to turn around the ailing economy.
“I said it before that we would do whatever is necessary, that is legal and moral, to rescue this country. Does that mean going to the IMF? It may, we don’t know. But when we get the results in the first few days (of taking office), we will be able to make the judgement,” said Mottley.
The Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) earlier this month said that the local economy had contracted by an estimated 0.7 per cent during the first quarter of this year, and warned that the outlook “remains challenging”.
CBB Governor Cleviston Haynes, in a review of Barbados’ economic performance in the first quarter of 2018, said that the performance reflects the combined impact of a decline in real output in the tourism sector, the slowing of construction activity, the late start to the annual sugar harvest, and the slowdown of domestic demand arising from the budgetary measures announced in the May 2017 budget.
The CBB said that while the supply of foreign exchange was more than adequate to meet market demand on a timely basis during the quarter, “higher public sector debt service obligations than usual contained the growth of international reserves at the Central Bank”.
The Central Bank said that decisive stabilisation measures which place the public finances on a sustainable path, alter the trajectory for the international reserves, and create the conditions for strong durable growth are now needed in order to deal with the challenges ahead for the local economy.
But Stuart maintained that his Administration has done much to revitalise the economy and has warned voters not to take a chance with their future.
“Having said that Barbados is in the poorest state that it has ever been in since Universal Adult Suffrage or since Independence, the Barbados Labour Party is now coming to give the impression to the people that the same Barbados that is on its knees can afford all the giveaways that they are promising.
“Mia Mottley has stood up in the House of Assembly on many occasions and said that the problem with Barbados is that we are running a Government that we cannot afford. And although we can’t afford it, according to her, she is now coming with measures that would require us to spend even more than is being spent now — but spending more by earning less,” he told party supporters.
However, Mottley, who is aiming to emulate the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana, Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica, and Kamla Persad Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago in heading governments in a predominatly male-dominated Caribbean political landscape, insists that “change is in sight in this country.
“I have not come to lie to the people of Barbados, I have come to talk to you and with you . . . All that we have seen is that Freundel Stuart would do anything to be able to say that, ‘I did not go to the IMF. I did not carry Barbados to the IMF’,” she added.
Today’s election is already historic for more than one reason.
Stuart himself said that “history is not made by things happening the same way all the time” and that it is “made by doing things differently”, as he defended the decision not to name a date for the general election when the Parliament was automatically dissolved earlier this year.
“I did not dissolve it deliberately and, of course, the experts have been giving expressions of their surprise. This is the first time in Barbados’ history that a Parliament was allowed to stand dissolved by the effluxion of time — that is how history is made,” he said.
The 2018 election has attracted a record 135 candidates representing various political parties and independents. There are 37 women and 98 men, and for the first time in Barbados’ political history, two political parties — the BLP and United Progressive Party (UPP) — are being led into an election by women.
However, despite the increased number of political parties and candidates, only the DLP and the BLP have nominated candidates to contest all 30 constituencies, with some such as the Barbados Integrity Movement fielding just one candidate.
The courts have also featured in the run-up to the general election. Commonwealth citizens, who have been resident here for more than three years, went as far as the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – Barbados’ highest court – seeking to have their names included on the voters’ list.
“The long-standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors … is unlawful and ultra vires. The court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” The CCJ ruled, threatening to jail the chief electoral officer, Angela Taylor, if she failed to obey the ruling.
Political commentators say that history does not really favour the DLP in the election. They noted that never in the history of this Caribbean island, since it obtained political independence from Britain in 1996, has a Government obtained more than a 10-year term in office.
Barbados elections today
Barbadians go to the polls today after a period of uncertainty over whether the elections would take place. The Barbados parliament was automatically dissolved on March 5, without Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announcing an election date. Today’s election date was subsequently announced. Nomination Day was May 7. A total of 135 candidates will contest the election.
The main parties contesting the polls are the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), and the opposition Mia Mottley led Barbados Labour Party (BLP). Both parties have announced their full slates of 30 candidates each.The new Solutions Barbados (SB), led by Grenville Phillips II, has announced a slate of 26 candidates. The United Progressive Party (UPP), led by former BLP Cabinet Minister Lynette Eastmond is fielding a slate of 23 candidates.
The People’s Democratic Congress (PDC), led by Mark Adamson has three candidates. The PDC’s partner in the Coalition of United Parties (CUP), the Bajan Free Party (BFP), led by Alex Mitchell also has three candidates. The Kingdom Government of Barbados (KGB), led by Steve Hunte, has one candidate. Today’s elections sees the Barbados Integrity Movement (BIM) facing the polls for the first time. The BIM is led by Neil Holder and has eight candidates. BIM is a member of CUP. Ten independent candidates also face the polls today.
Up for grabs are 30 seats in the Barbados House of Assembly. In terms of gender, there are 37 women and 98 men contesting the election. For the first time, two political parties, the BLP and UPP, are being led in an election by women (Mottley and Eastmond).
In the last general election in 2013, the DLP won 16 seats in the House of Assembly. The BLP won the remaining 14. Voter turnout then was 62.02 percent.