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Caribbean moves into election mode

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Fri Dec 05, 2014

Next Monday, December 8, the Commonwealth of Dominica continues a hectic election season in the CARICOM region, which began with the Antigua and Barbuda polls in June and will stretch well into 2015.

In Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is trying for his third successive term. Pre-election polls favour his Dominica Labour Party (DLP), but one must of course await the results on polling day, since polls have been proven wrong on more than one occasion.{{more}}

Skerrit’s DLP is one of several Labour parties in the OECS fighting to maintain their long hold on power. Buoyed by the victory of the Antigua Labour Party, the incumbent Labour administrations will no doubt attempt to cash in on each and every Labour victory. It is a point well understood by the region’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Dr Denzil Douglas of St Kitts/Nevis.

Dr Douglas became his country’s youngest prime minister in 1995, just as Skerrit did in Dominica in 2004. Since then, Prime Minister Douglas has won three more elections and in the face of controversy at home, is seeking a fifth successive term in office. This, he ascribes to his, and Labour, having “the right prescription” to win elections.

This is what he told delegates to last weekend’s convention of the St Lucia Labour Party, at which he was the featured speaker. St Lucians are expected to go to the polls early in 2015 with the Dr Kenny Anthony administration seeking to repeat its victory of 2011, when it won 11 of the 17 seats at stake. Anthony had also won successive elections in 1997 and 2001, but was thwarted in his attempt for a third term in 2006.

Elections are also due in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago next year. This may well also be the case in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), where the Unity Labour Party (ULP) is trying for a fourth term in succession. While Dr Douglas may feel confident of his “winning prescription,” (history will prove whether he is correct), things are not so straightforward in SVG.

Here, in spite of impressive social programmes, the ULP administration is again facing a hard fight to remain in power. There are signs that it is beginning to put its election machinery in gear, in the face of repeated calls by the Opposition New Democratic Party for Prime Minister Gonsalves to “ring the bell,” that is, call the elections.

The ULP is completing a candidate selection process, part of what it calls its “renewal,” though from reports, some incumbents, earmarked for retirement, may well be having second thoughts. It will be interesting to compare the respective slates of candidates when they are completed.

The grave economic and social challenges confronting the country will present the next administration, ULP or New Democratic Party (NDP), with formidable hurdles and makes the choices that the electorate will make very important. The NDP is more determined than ever not to go under for the fourth time in a row and the keen rivalry between PM Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace gives a special edge to the upcoming contest.

With only a razor-thin margin, the ULP will have to strain at the leash to maintain its hold. Generally, as people tire of long-entrenched administrations, they are tested to hold off fresh challenges. The ULP will be no different. After virtually surrendering control of the capital city, Kingstown, in its futile bids to unseat Mr Eustace in East Kingstown, and without clearly decided candidates in Central and West Kingstown, it will be a surprise if the ULP can regain much lost ground in the upcoming months.

Then, there is the Leeward coast, where Labour needs to at least hold Central Leeward, whilst trying to make inroads in North and South with new candidates. Perhaps Dr Gonsalves will be hoping that his Kittitian counterpart can share the “winning prescription” with him.

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