Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will attempt to become the first leader of his center-left ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in decades to secure re-election when the Caribbean island goes to the polls on Thursday. In a battle expected to be closely contested, former minister Mia Mottley is bidding to stop him. She hopes to end 10 years on the sidelines for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), also a center-left party and the DLP’s main opposition. If elected, Mottley, 52, would become the country’s first female prime minister since independence from Britain in 1966.
The Barbadian economy has struggled since suffering a sharp contraction in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis. Growth was minimal in the next few years until gross domestic product expanded 1.6 percent in 2016, World Bank data show.
The weak growth has put strains on Barbados’ public debt, pressuring foreign exchange reserves and helping to spark repeated downgrades of the island’s credit rating.
Mottley’s BLP have attacked Stuart over taxation and the cost of living, pledging to provide regular garbage collection, more buses for public transportation, and repair potholed roads up and down the country’s 166 square miles (430 square kilometers).