“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.” – 2 Peter 1:10.
Barbados is now in election mode. The election will take place on January 15, 2008 and as usual both parties are confident of winning in the sense of getting the greater number of seats in the House of Assembly.
Traditionally, the election contest in Barbados has been between the BLP and the DLP and this 2008 election will be no different in the sense that the third party, the Peoples’ Empowerment Party (PEP) are only likely to be contesting a few seats.
Again, traditionally, there is a percentage of hard-core supporters for each major party and these two percentages may be deemed to be approximately the same. If we trace the election results from Independence in 1966, the DLP was in power for two five-year terms, then the BLP was in power for two five-year terms, then the DLP was in power for eight years, and the BLP have been in power for more than 13 years. The DLP has ruled the country for 18 years, and the BLP for 23 years since Independence. There are some who may argue that this is a statistical manifestation of a democratic society.
If the BLP were to win the 2008 election, it will be the first party to be elected to run the Government for four successive terms and this statistical manifestation of a democratic society would be disturbed. Would the society be destroyed?
If the DLP were to win this election, at the end of the next five years, each party would have governed Barbados for 23 years since Independence and this statistical manifestation of a democratic society would be restored. How important is this statistical manifestation to a sustainable democratic society?
The definition of a Manifesto is “a public declaration” or “making an announcement” or “giving an explanation or defense of intentions or motives”. Each party will, undoubtedly, be preparing its own Manifesto and, traditionally, the hard copy version of this information is only physically available very close to the election date. The manifesto may influence the decision of the uncommitted voter and it certainly may be used to monitor the performance of the party in Government over the ensuing five-year period.
The hard-core supporters of the BLP and of the DLP, by definition, are unlikely to change and, hence, the Manifesto as an influencing voting factor, will not count for much among them. However, each political party must address the needs of the uncommitted voter if they are to influence them to vote for their respective party.
I would like to introduce the concept of a “People’s Manifesto” which really states what the people’s needs are and, if it is believed to be a reality, then it would be wise for the Manifesto of each party to be fairly consistent with that of the People’s Manifesto.
I am in the process of reading a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller called “The Audacity of Hope – Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” by Barack Obama, a Democratic Presidential Candidate in the US 2008 Elections. I find it very easy reading and, in fact, it has provided the stimulus for this People’s Manifesto concept. As Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times wrote praising “The Audacity of Hope”: “Barack Obama is that rare politician who can actually write and write movingly and genuinely about himself. He strives to ground his policy thinking in simple common sense, while articulating these ideas in a level-headed non-partisan prose. That in itself is something unusual not only in these venomous pre-election days, but also in these increasingly polarized and polarizing times.”
In delineating the People’s Manifesto one may draw on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, starting with the basic needs of food, clothing and housing and evolving to self actualisation which is a manifestation of personal growth and fulfillment. This means that agriculture is paramount and we are best advised to “grow what we eat and eat what we grow” and focus on food security in these times of uncertainty and rising transport costs. Other needs relate to education, housing, health, energy, transportation and other service functions which are most efficiently provided centrally by Government, with support from the Private Sector.
However, for Government to get the revenue to support these centrally provided services, the Private Sector must do business and take advantage of every entrepreneurial opportunity within a user-friendly enabling environment supported by Government.
Any political party which can innovatively and charismatically better convince the electorate, especially the floating voter, that the future is secure for our children and grandchildren, notwithstanding the vagaries of this competitive world, is likely to have the edge in persuading the uncommitted voters to vote for its policies, since there is unlikely to be any major difference in the policies.
The festivities of the Christmas Season are here. May I extend to all Barbadians Season’s Blessings and may their vision be clear not only to vote but also to make an appropriate choice based on their needs as we seek to elect a Government to take us forward over the next five year period.