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Did Dr. Gonsalves change the election date at the last minute?

Did Dr. Gonsalves change the  election date at the last minute?

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by Kenton X. Chance 16.NOV.10

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves might have changed the election date at the last moment Sunday night, a copy of his prepared speech circulated to the media on Monday suggests.{{more}}

Alternatively, he might have purposely communicated information to suggest to Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace that the elections would have been held on December 15, as Eustace told supporters of his New Democratic Party (NDP) on Saturday, November 13.

What is official is that Vincentians will elect a new government on December 13, as announced by Gonsalves at a Unity Labour Party (ULP) rally in Calliaqua on Sunday, November 14.

Parliament was dissolved yesterday, Monday, November 15, while candidates in the election are to be officially nominated on November 26.

Gonsalves and his ULP, which first came to office in March 2001, are vying for a third consecutive term in office.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace also said at the NDP rally in Sion Hill on Saturday that Parliament would be dissolved on November 15 and the general elections would be held on December 15.

“If Gonsalves change that date, he change it tonight. And he is intending to announce it tomorrow. … And, if he change it, I will know!” Eustace said.

But Gonsalves said on Sunday that he had called the “bluff” that resulted in Eustace announcing December 15 as the elections date, saying that no one would ring the election bell for him.

Gonsalves told journalists on Monday that while he had prepared a speech, he “spoke to it rather than to read it because in a rally it is very difficult to read a speech.”

Photographs show that the document from which Gonsalves read on Sunday, clearly has blank spaces for the relevant dates.

Gonsalves placed the speech on the shoulder of his wife Eloise Gonsalves, as he scribbled in the dates after making what some have interpreted as an extra effort to convince his audience that Eustace was wrong.

However, a copy of the speech, circulated to the media by a member of Gonsalves’ media relations team on Monday, shows the date of the elections as December 15.

Gonsalves told reporters on Monday that he informed the Governor General about the dissolution of Parliament and the election date.

He said that while the Constitution said the head of state has to be informed, it did not say how.

“… I had spoken to him before about broadly what I was thinking about, that I would be calling on him to dissolve in a broad period. And I spoke to him more specifically when I made up my mind that it was the 13th [of December]. And, for his records, I put it in writing – ‘…further to our telephone conversation of such and such a date I now confirm the following….’ You know, that is how I did it in 2005. And that is how I do it,” Gonsalves said at a press briefing on Monday.

Gonsalves said he also had to ensure that the Attorney General knew about the dates because she has to prepare the instruments which the Governor General had to sign.

“And then the Attorney General has to interface with the Supervisor of Elections because there are certain things which have to be done with the returning officers….

“Certain documents have to be published today in the Gazette and having been published on the radio and then appearing in the newspaper, I would expect in SEARCHLIGHT tomorrow, in terms of particular formal announcements, those which have been made in the Gazette. That is the process,” Gonsalves said.

He said that while the Attorney General “would have alerted the Government Printer … the amount of time she gives the Printer would be in her judgment, without in any way violating the quote unquote confidentiality of the information which I would have relayed to her and would have agreed upon with his Excellency the Governor General. That’s the process,” Gonsalves said.

At the rally on Sunday, Gonsalves seemed to making an extra effort to convince his supporters and radio and Internet audiences that Eustace had got the election date wrong.

The speech circulated to the media reads:“Today, I formally advised His Excellency the Governor General that Parliament be dissolved on November 15th. Nomination Day will be November 26th. General Elections will be held on December 15th.”

The question then is: Did Gonsalves change the date after Eustace’s announcement or did Eustace fall for Gonsalves’ trap?