HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Dr Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) on being re-elected to office for a fifth consecutive term, thus racking up another first in the Caribbean.
This historic victory was achieved against the odds; there is an almost instinctive desire in democracies for governments to be changed after political parties or leaders have been in power for more than 10 years, no matter how much good they have done. So when faced with the possibility of a political party retaining power for five more years after they had completed 20, there must have been apathy among some voters, even supporters of the ULP.
But Thursday’s victory belongs primarily to Gonsalves who, in the process of bringing it home for his party, most definitely earned the rank of General and every one of those “five stars” he has claimed. His wisdom, political acumen, resourcefulness, tenacity, intelligence and understanding of human nature are well known, but Gonsalves earned new respect from observers because of the determined and energetic manner in which he, at 74, moved from event to event and constituency to constituency, shoring up the other candidates and doing the heavy lifting necessary to secure victory.
Although managing to increase the number of seats in the ULP column, Gonsalves must be bitterly disappointed to have lost the popular vote, having held on to it since 1998. Over the years, he has prided himself at having the endorsement of the majority of Vincentians, so going into his fifth term, introspection, renewal and reorganization in the party must certainly be high on the agenda.
Introspection and reorganization must also be in order for The New Democratic Party because for them, it is also “five-in-a-row” in Opposition. Something about their message, messengers and/ or methods continues to prevent them from closing in on victory.
Among the NDP candidates however, the MVPs in our opinion were Shevern John, Lavern Gibson-Velox and Noel Dickson of North Windward, East St George and South Windward respectively. Although they did not win their seats, they managed to shave off hundreds of votes from their opponents in seats (in the case of Gibson-Velox and Dickson) that were considered ULP strongholds. John and Gibson-Velox were particularly impressive, they being newcomers to the political scene and having begun their work just months before the poll. The success of these women should encourage political parties to consider more women for candidacy, and women to positively answer the call when it is made.
Garifuna Chief Montgomery Daniel of the ULP should be proud of having withstood the sustained and multifaceted attack by the NDP on his hold of the North Windward seat. His lead of 323 was whittled down to 69 votes, but the Iron Man remains standing.
That he withstood the attack is in part a result of the stellar representation he provides to his constituents; other ULP candidates paid dearly for falling short in this area.
Carlos James also comes in for honourable mention for bringing the North Leeward seat back into the ULP fold after 10 years. He too was under sustained attack, but he held on and completed the job. But the brightest star in the ULP constellation is undisputedly the popular Dr Orando Brewster, who injected excitement into the national ULP campaign and brought home the Central Leeward seat in fine style, with a margin of over 500 votes.
The elections are over, the people have spoken. We must now come together and turn our attention to the hard work of nation building in these difficult times.