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#BTEditorial – DLP race for presidency good for the party

News that other members of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) have been nominated to contest the post of president at the upcoming annual general conference in August should come as no surprise.

Former minister Richard Sealy and the DLP’s second vice-president Ryan Walters have been nominated. While Walters has accepted the nomination – as declared on his official social media pages – we are yet to hear if Sealy will accept his. According to party pundits, Dr David Estwick who was previously defeated by current president Dr Ronnie Yearwood has been nominated as well.

In recent times, former president Verla DePeiza had to face off against former party general secretary George Pilgrim and, later, Reverend Guy Hewitt. These kinds of races are usually contested as a two-person battle. The fact that there are four names is extremely telling.

So what do these nominations mean for the incumbent who took over leadership of the party just over a year ago? It was in May 2022, when the party was at its lowest point after failing to win a single seat in two consecutive general elections, that Dr Yearwood took over.

He promised to bring the party together and invited supporters to come back home. He said the party was one big tent and all were welcome. The DLP leader promised a lot and must be held accountable for his stewardship over the past year.

The fact that other members of the party have been nominated begs several questions: Is the party better off today than it was one year ago? Has Dr Yearwood’s leadership taken the party forward? Is the party being viewed by the electorate as a viable alternative? Does the party show signs of political strength in the trenches or on the national stage?

There can be no argument that over the past year, Dr Yearwood has been focused on keeping the Government on its toes. He has brought on spokespersons, too, who seem more keen on opposing the Government than connecting with the people. In some cases, the DLP leader has even been critical of the media when reports were not published in the party’s favour.

Earlier this year, political scientists posited that the leadership issue within the DLP was not yet settled. The nomination of two, possibly three, candidates might be interpreted as confirming this, and that not enough has been done to restore the confidence of party members.

But this unease has ramifications. Some have said on call-in programmes that the party has failed to connect with its base and, by extension, with voters in the many communities across Barbados.

The party was criticised for a series of zonal meetings it held, with some saying they looked more like social club gatherings than political meetings about serious issues affecting the electorate.

It is quite clear that some of the more vocal members have not been effectively used. This is evident by the composition of the list of spokespersons submitted by the party to the media. Some individuals coming out of the January 2022 elections have not been assigned as spokespersons. Noticeably absent are Walters, Courie Cox, Kemar Stuart and Pedro Shepherd – personalities that have been socially and politically active in the party.

But should Dr Yearwood shoulder all the blame? In all fairness, he came to the job with little to no leadership experience. He should, however, be commended for stepping up to lead a political party that faced the worst defeats in the history of Bajan politics.

So where does the party go from here? How will the upcoming elections unfold? Should Dr Yearwood’s mandate be renewed or should the party change direction? Will the membership embrace the experience and know-how of Sealy or Dr Estwick, or will they throw their support behind the youthful Walters? Given the last election result where Sealy lost to incumbent St Michael South Central MP Marsha Caddle, Walters may be the best option with his business acumen and declared love for representation.

On the other hand, Political Scientist Devaron Bruce,, in a piece carried in Barbados TODAY Wednesday, used statistics to show that Dr. Yearwood is the “most successful showing …. and has the best electoral prospects”.

It is obvious at this juncture the DLP is in dire need of transformational leadership. The electorate rejected what was served up by the party in 2018 and 2022. The Dems must decide sensibly. The party’s survival may depend on it.

The next leader, the next chapter of the DLP, has to be geared towards rallying the party in order to win at least a single seat whenever an election is called. The party has to look, feel, talk and shape like a modern, well-oiled political institution and a government in waiting. Anything less will lead to a third 30-0 defeat.

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