Comrade, ULP make history with 5th straight win
ON THURSDAY, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) was re-elected to government for an unprecedented fifth consecutive term, picking up an extra seat in the process.
The “five-in-a-row” victory was however bitter-sweet for the party as it secured 494 fewer votes overall than the New Democratic Party (NDP), thus losing the popular vote which it had held since 1998.
The preliminary results from the Electoral Office indicate that the ULP polled 32,353 of the 62,251 accepted votes cast, thereby securing 49.6 per cent of the popular vote. Had the ULP been able to secure the popular vote, this would have been the sixth time the party would have been doing so, the first being in the General Elections of June 15, 1998, when led by the late Vincent Beache, the ULP won 54.6 per cent of the vote, but only seven of the 15 available seats and thus failed to form Government.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves, political leader of the ULP, led his party to the polls on a platform of “Lifting SVG Higher” and providing steady, experienced leadership in difficult times. The self-styled “five star general” and “World Boss” was seeking to accomplish what no other Caribbean leader or government had accomplished post-Independence — a fifth consecutive term for his party.
During the four week campaign, the 74-year-old Gonsalves, who has contested every general elections in St Vincent and the Grenadines since Independence in 1979 kept up a gruelling schedule, sometimes visiting as many as four political events in different parts of the country to shore up the chances of the party’s 14 other candidates. He did all this while opening a flurry of government projects around the country, sitting as Chair of CARICOM and taking up the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on November 1.
In his speaking engagements, Gonsalves warned Vincentians that they should not change a government just for the sake of changing, and that leadership of the country was too important for them to take a “chance” with president of the NDP Dr Godwin Friday, who he described as “weak, imitative, vacillating, inexperienced and out of his depths.”
Gonsalves also devoted a great deal of time and energy pleading with Vincentians to steer clear of what he described as one of the seven follies of the NDP; their proposal to sell the country’s citizenship and passports. He said the Opposition political party wanted to sell the soul of the nation to foreigners in their proposed Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.
Despite not spending much time canvassing votes in his constituency of North Central Windward, Gonsalves romped home with 2853 votes to 886 for the NDP’s candidate Chieftain Neptune. In 2015, Gonsalves had a margin of 2269, which dropped to 1967 in 2020, a swing towards the NDP of 302 votes.
SEARCHLIGHT was unable to reach the Prime Minister up to press time yesterday, but late Thursday night, his son Camillo, re-elected as parliamentary representative for East St George said despite going for an unprecedented fifth term, they were massively confident going into the elections.
“As you know you heard we were expecting more seats and that wasn’t just political boasting, we were expecting more seats but this election we learned now from the results was not an election against the NDP, it was an election against apathy, it was an election against people who just thought that maybe we had been there too long.
“So as the results came in we saw that the vote totals were reduced and so it gave us pause. We expected to win more seats, but as the Prime Minister always says a win is a win and we have increased the number of seats which is a tremendous achievement in a fifth term in office,” Camillo told SEARCHLIGHT.
The voters’ list shows an increase of 8592, compared with the list of electors in 2015.
Peter Wickham, a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services predicted the ULP’s win.
He noted that Gonsalves and the ULP first prevailed in 2001 with 12 seats and 57 per cent support and held those seats in 2005, although suffering a marginal negative swing. In 2010 Gonsalves lost seats but retained a majority of one and retained this majority on a positive swing in 2015.
Wickham had said, “Effectively, the Gonsalves model has been one of “controlled decline” which would normally make him an unlikely candidate for five consecutive
victories. “There is; however, another peculiarity which tips the scale in Gonsalves favor and this is the current configuration that makes it easier for him to prevail.
“The conversion of the ULP’s weakest seat requires a -3% swing or the loss of 250 plus votes, while the NDP’s weakest will capitulate on a +0.1% swing and a 7-vote conversion. In addition, a swing similar to that which the ULP achieved in 2015 (+1%) would add a further two seats to the ULP’s complement which would be remarkable in a fifth term but proximate to that which Skerrit accomplished in 2019.
“It is therefore against this electoral background along with the broader environmental factors which currently favor incumbents, that one is inclined to think that Gonsalves is likely to become this region’s first 5-Star General on Thursday,” Wickham wrote.