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Permanent electioneering


The veteran Vincentian calypso bard and cultural icon, Sulle, has, among his classics, a composition called “Permanent Carnival,” referring to the political situation in this country. In the three decades that have elapsed since he wrote the song, and particularly since the cliffhanging general elections of 1998, one could very well characterize St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as being in a state of “permanent elections.”

Hardly a week passes by without some political controversy, with bearing on the possibility of “new elections”, so much so that our country can be considered to be in a state of “permanent campaigning.” The close outcome of the 2015 elections, the second successive 8-7 result, and recent moral victories for the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in its court battles challenging the results in two constituencies have added to the drama. That party continues to take the line that “victory is imminent” and that the Government is bound to call new elections, either of a by-election nature or general elections, soon. To add to this, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has himself either hinted at, or indeed threatened to call new elections.

It should therefore be no surprise that the NDP is preparing itself for such a challenge. In so doing, it has to address some issues surrounding its choice of candidates. One of its prominent candidates, former party chair Dr Linton Lewis, a perennial loser in both constituencies in the St George parish, has given up on his partisan political aspirations, meaning that the NDP must find a replacement for the East St George constituency. Dr Lewis is fulfilling an academic contract in the region.

Coincidentally, in the neighbouring West St George constituency, the NDP’s candidate in the last elections, Dr Julian Ferdinand, has announced that he too is stepping away from the electoral fray, to pursue a teaching contract as well. This leaves the NDP to find two candidates for formidable battles, against incumbents Camillo Gonsalves (East St George) and Cecil McKie (West St George).

Unfortunately, after the announcement that radio announcer Colin Graham had been selected by the constituency council to contest the East St George seat, his candidacy became embroiled in controversy, following allegations of domestic abuse, which he later admitted to. Graham has now backed down from candidacy. There has also been speculation that prominent barrister Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, a staunch critic of the Government, is being considered for candidacy in West St George; she has not denied interest in contesting the seat.

The events of the past week have been yet another reminder to all prospective and ambitious political aspirants of the brutal nature of electoral politics in countries like ours and the degree to which their personal lives come into public scrutiny, for good reason or otherwise. But above all, with the election petitions due for hearing and the contention by the Opposition that the Government will have to call elections rather than face the outcome of those hearings, we may well be in store for yet another election campaign.

Are the parties ready for such a contest? Is the electorate prepared for all that a campaign brings? Will the outcome at last end the ongoing controversies?