Barbadians gave the governing Barbados Labor Party (BLP) all 30 of the parliamentary seats for just the second consecutive time in general elections held Wednesday, ignoring fears that doing so would make the economically challenged, tourism dependent Eastern Caribbean nation an administrative or ‘elected’ one party state.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s gamble to call elections 18 months before they were constitutionally due gave her massive returns as voters once again rejected the main opposition Democratic Labor Party (DLP) as DLP supporters did not show up in large enough numbers to make a difference.

The BLP’s complete washout of the opposition is only the second such electoral annihilation in the 15-member bloc in living memory, following on the three consecutive wins by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and his New National Party in Grenada in the past 20 years.

Lambasted by opposition parties, some civil society elements and commentators for “irresponsibly” calling the vote in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mottley had argued that she needed a new mandate to help heal divisions in government and the wider society, hence the need for a political rebooting of the country. Locals rewarded her by voting overwhelmingly to retain the BLP. Mottley at the end of November had led the country to transition from a mere independent nation to a republic with its own native head of state rather than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. She had also been pilloried for ignoring calls for a referendum to switch to a republic, inducing criticisms about her alleged autocratic style. Instead, she used the overwhelming parliamentary majority to do so, much to the chagrin of some in opposition to her and the BLP.

The wipeout means that Joseph Atherley who had won his seat on the BLP ticket in 2018 but had opted to leave the party and become the voice of the opposition will disappear from the house, rejected by voters who had loved him in the last elections. Similarly, DLP Leader Verla De Peiza is already facing internal party calls for her to go home, retire and allow the party to rebuild. She conceded defeat as results trickled in late into Wednesday. In many cases, the numbers matched what incumbent candidates had received in 2018.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley arrives to cast her ballot to vote in the country’s first election since it became a republic by removing the British Queen as its sovereign, at Eden Lodge Primary School in St. Michael, Barbados, Jan. 19, 2022.  REUTERS/Nigel R. Browne

“I thank you, you, the people of Barbados for accepting us at our word that if we do not fix our problems starting from tomorrow we will not be able to guarantee safety to our people in the next 10 to 15 years. We wanted to start 2022 as far as possible on a fresh guard. You have given us that opportunity,” the PM said as she addressed supporters.

She continues in term two with stringent austerity measures in place-thanks to an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bolster central bank foreign exchange reserves, rebuild investor confidence in the economy stabilize a country whose economy has been ravaged by lockdowns associated with the pandemic, shuttered airports and harbored cruise ships. Youth unemployment is slated at 30 percent and there is increasing worry about gun crime in a country that needs low rates to make tourists comfortable.

Meanwhile, Hartley Henry, a respected regional political strategist and advisor to several governments, said the DLP was disorganized, spoke with many different voices, pitted dozens of unknown candidates against familiar BLP rivals and was simply not ready for a snap poll.

“Only one party showed up. We have to come to terms with that reality. The DLP was all over the place. What we are seeing here is a vote of confidence for a government and the leadership of a government and a repudiation of the opposition,” he said on a television panel as results came in.

Preparations for the elections were marred slightly by a court challenge this week against a ban on people in COVID isolation from voting. In all there were about 5,000 such persons. The court sided with officials, citing the interest of the public in doing so.

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