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The struggle for inclusive governance


by Maxwell Haywood 23.DEC.10

Indeed, something interesting emerged in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as a result of the general election held on December 13, 2010. The struggle for political power mainly between the ULP and the NDP has resulted in a situation in which SVG has now entered a relatively new political dispensation that is supposed to last for the next 5 years. This 8-7 result represents the voice of the electorate.{{more}} Actually, it reflects a fact of which many Vincentians are aware, which is that SVG’s population is sharply divided along political party lines. Therefore, reconciliation is in order.

The general election was very divisive. However, now that the election is behind us, it is time to govern the country devoid of divisiveness and grounded in consensus around a number of shared fundamental national public policies in every sector of the nation.

The 8-7 result is just the appearance. It is just the surface of something deeper crying out for attention. Beneath the result is a simple and humble message of the moment. This message calls on Vincentians, regardless of political party affiliation, to find common ground in order to tackle the national development tasks and challenges in the fields of health, education, housing, employment, economic production, governance and others.

General implications

According to official statistics, fewer than 3000 votes separated the ULP from the NDP in terms of the popular vote. Moreover, they were also separated by just one seat. The voters saw to it that neither party was victorious by a landslide. The 8-7 result is not a decisive victory for the ULP. And after 10 years in opposition, the NDP was not able to win the majority of constituencies; but it came extremely close in doing so on December 13, 2010.

This close call, as shown in the result, is a situation that should serve to bring out the best in Dr. Gonsalves and Arhnim Eustace’s leadership. Only enlightened leadership, fully aware of the message of the moment, could turn this situation into an asset for the entire nation. This responsibility does not only rest on the shoulders of Dr. Gonsalves and the ULP. Arhnim Eustace and his NDP cannot escape this responsibility. Furthermore, the leadership of the media, religious institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector must carry this responsibility, too. Every Vincentian must now embrace this opportunity for cooling down the heat of divisiveness generated by the struggle of political parties for the seat of government.

One thing is certain, and we can say for sure that the 2 parties showed that they still have strong bonds with their supporters. This point has profound implications for the way in which we move forward from here. In this context, newly elected representative Maxwell Charles, who is Minister of National Reconciliation, Public Service, Labour, Information, and Ecclesiastical Affairs, has a huge and exciting role to play in facilitating reconciliation in the interest of national unity and development.

Some concerns

As we move toward the prize of national unity, political leaders and their public relations personnel should not encourage hard feelings between the ULP and the NDP by the words they use against each other. The hostile language already being heard in the post general election period could serve to increase social and political tensions from which no one would benefit. Instead of dedicating large sections of speeches and statements to igniting hostility and negative emotions, the leaders of our society should flip the script and argue and reason passionately and genuinely for national unity, for policy consensus, and finding common ground on fundamental policies necessary for national development. This is a more superior or sophisticated approach than the hostile approach currently being used by our political leaders.

If a high level of national unity is to be achieved, one of the problems that the political parties will have to confront is the extent of political divisiveness that has permeated their base. Dr. Gonsalves has called for unity with the NDP. But are the members and supporters of the ULP willing to positively answer this call? And if Arhnim Eustace is to agree with the call by the Prime Minister, will the NDP members support him? I trust that Vincentians will respond positively.

Despite the odds, I am very hopeful that political maturity could prevail. There is no guarantee it will prevail, but the possibilities exist for political maturity to become the norm. Again, that responsibility to ensure it happens belongs to all of us.