BARBADOS Voting for a new government

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Barbadians were on Thursday voting to elect a new government following a gruelling campaign and the possibility of the island electing its first ever woman prime minister.

Barb 1The 542 polling stations scattered across this flat Caribbean Community (CARICOM) island, opened at 6.00 am (local time) and will close 12 hours later giving the estimated 255, 654 voters an opportunity of casting their ballot. Some voters had stood in line long before the opening time.

While there are a record 135 candidates and seven political parties vying for control of the 30-member Parliament, the contest is seen as a straight fight between the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by attorney, Mia Mottley.

There has been no published opinion poll leading up to the election that Prime Minister Stuart called more than a month after the last parliament was automatically dissolved, but political observers and media commentators believe that Stuart, who led the DLP into a 16-14 victory in the 2013 general election, faces a tough task in repeating the feat.

If Mottley becomes victorious, she will join the likes of the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana, Portia Simpson Miller in Jamaica and Kamla Persad Bissessar in Trinidad and Tobago in heading a government in the CARICOM region.

Unlike the situation in several other CARICOM countries, there are no election observers from the regional or international community and counting of the ballots will begin two hours after the polls close.

Supervisor of Elections, Angela Taylor, said the Electoral Department is prepared for the general election and is quoted in a government statement as saying “much of the last two days has been spent collecting ballot papers from the Government Printery, after which they were checked to ensure that they were properly numbered and that there were no inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the ballot books.

“In addition, the polling tins for each polling station have been packed with the registration cards, so that when electors attend the polling station to cast their ballot and they don’t have their ID card, the registration card can be referenced,” she explained.

She said that all of the Returning Officers and Election Clerks have completed refresher training sessions including the use of an Election Management System, a new software which will be used for, among other things, entering the results of the count.

“The results will be transmitted to the Electoral Department and some of the media houses will also receive live feeds from that data.”.

On Wednesday night, the two main political parties staged their final rallies in the capital, urging voters to go out early and cast their ballots.

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