Friday, March 21, 2008

Wind of Change in Caribbean Politics

Between 2007 and 2008, the political landscape in the Caribbean has seen many changes. No less than five new political parties have come to power in the region and of course, there is the stepping down of Fidel Castro as the president of Cuba. The transfer of power in Cuba is a momentous affair not only for the Caribbean’s only communist state, but for the rest of the region as well.

In August 2007, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was defeated at the polls by the opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP) in what can only be described as a landmark victory in the British Virgin Islands. The Orlando Smith led NDP was in power since its victory at the polls in 2003. With the victory of the VIP, the country is now being led by Premier, Ralph T. O’neal.

Jamaica's general election in September 2007 saw the ruling People's National Party losing power in a closely-won battle to the Jamaica Labour Party after 18 years in power. The Portia Simpson-Miller led People’s National Party was aiming for an unprecedented fifth term in government when they were narrowly defeated by Bruce Golding’s Jamaica Labour Party. The outcome of the polls is still being disputed seven months after the elections as petitions have been filed in court concerning the suitability of some members of parliament based on their citizenship.

On January 15, 2008, the David Thomas led Democratic Labour Party (DLP) kept the momentum going when it defeated the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

In Belize, the United Democratic Party (UDP) defeated the reigning People's United Party (PUP) of the then prime minister, Said Musa. Musa’s defeat crushed his hopes for a third straight term as leader of Belize. Time will tell if the Dean Barrow-led UDP will be able to hold on to their hard fought victory come the next general election.

The other Caribbean island where power changed hands since 2007 is The Bahamas.

With the loss at the polls for so many established and long-serving parties in the Caribbean, one is left to curiously await the outcome of those general elections that are constitutionally due this year.

Are the Leonel Fernandez and Keith Mitchell led governments of the Dominican Republic and Grenada watching with trepidation what has befallen their fellow leaders – waiting and wondering for whom the bell will next toll? They may well be taking comfort in the fact that the ruling party was returned to power in the twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago in that nation’s November 2007 general elections. However, that situation in Trinidad should not necessarily be seen as a deviation from the pattern.

Despite all the other changes in the political landscape of the Caribbean recently, the change in Cuba will be the one most remembered for years to come.

With the Caribbean anxiously awaiting the November 2008 general elections in the United States of America, one is left to wonder if the winds of change will likewise be blowing across the States. Politics has once again become an interesting and much watched activity for Caribbean nationals, and no doubt for many across the world who rarely pay attentions to political affairs.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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