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…is the Prime Minister in trouble?
On December 27th, 2021, political pundits in the English-speaking Caribbean were stunned by a surprising announcement. The larger-than-life and extremely popular Caribbean icon, Mia Mottley, called a snap election. With ginger beer and pepper still on their breath, Barbadians gasped for political air to digest the seeming imposition. What caused the Prime Minister who sits comfortably in the saddle to shave 18 months off of her record-setting ascendancy to the throne? What could have motivated this? In our neck of the Caribbean woods, we are nonplussed. Snap elections are considered to be unthinking gambles in our polarised environment. As a consequence, Guyanese observers have been tempted to speculate that there might be something happening on the ground in Barbados which suggests that Mia could be in trouble. I disagree. Based on what these eyes have seen and these ears have encountered, I have concluded that Mia’s gamble is strategic and might be well calculated.
MIA IS NO POLITICAL SLOUCH
Too often, Mia Mottley’s political skills and experience are often lost in the forest of references to her iconic status. Some have consistently held steadfastly to the argument that the Prime Minister derives her political capital from her global superstardom. As a consequence, those opinions have erroneously relegated this savvy political operator to the column of those who ride in strictly on popularity. Lest we forget, Mia Amor Mottley has represented the Saint Michael North constituency since 1994. The former Opposition Leader and once Attorney-General has held several Cabinet portfolios and currently holds three Ministerial positions while serving as Prime Minister. No one carries such a resume without simultaneously amassing inestimable political experience. Needless to say-she has been in the trenches of Bridgetown and the eleven Parishes. Any dispassionate observer would be hard-pressed not to conceive that stylistically, she is a master campaigner. She effortlessly commands the campaign stage while gyrating to elections jiggles flavored with melodies of the grassroots. She plays the role of DJ at rallies. She uses the parlance of the working class, while retaining her middle-class identity. Does that appear to be a woman in any political trouble?
CHINK IN THE ARMOR?
The onset of Covid-19 has undoubtedly pummeled the Bajan economy and has served up some unprecedented macroeconomic challenges. The Barbadian economy contracted massively. The fiscal surplus of 3.7 of 2019/2020 has metamorphosed into a fiscal deficit of 0.2% by September 2020. The tourism industry has been eviscerated and unemployment has risen to 40%. In the normal scheme of things, it would have been prudent to conclude that any incumbent, who provides stewardship over this economic disaster, would be in trouble. However, the Bajans are acutely aware that Covid-19 has affected the globe and Barbados is not insulated from the economic fallout. They get it. They are hard-pressed to find a correlation between the policies of the Mottley Administration and the economic fallout. Some may be tempted to opine that the Opposition’s label of Mottley being a despot may resonate with the people. Please. Even if it does, she might lose 3 seats. Certainly, no reasonable mind can expect a repeat of the performance of 2018 but trouble, not a chance in my estimation.
THE KEY BELLWETHER
When famous Barbados and West Indian cricketer Floyd Reifer made himself available as a candidate for the DLP to contest the St. George North seat, the eyes of political pundits lit up. The Bi-election for the coveted seat on November 11, 2020, presented an opportunity to test the Barbadian political waters. The former West Indian batsman aroused nationalism, appeared charismatic and captured the imagination of voters. Some concluded that Mia would receive her first post-2018 defeat. In the end, Toni Moore, the BLP candidate pulled off a comfortable victory. Anyone who suggests that Mia is in trouble, must explain why it didn’t manifest a few months ago. Maybe if it did, there would not have been any call for snap elections. Think about this.