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Elections ripe around Caribbean region

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Tue Mar 03, 2015

Editor: 2015 seems to be election year in the Caribbean Community, with six countries holding general elections. In fact, one was already held on February 16 last, when Denzil Douglas, who served 20 years as Prime Minister of the federation of St Kitts/Nevis failed in his bid to retain power, although he used all the tricks in the books to do so.{{more}}

The tiny island of Anguilla is carded to have its elections on April 25, when Hubert Hughes will try to retain power. What is different in this election is that international observers will be present to monitor the election. Hughes is on his first term, after he defeated Osbourne Fleming’s AUF in 2001.

Guyana is the next country scheduled to hold elections. President Donald Ramotar was forced to call elections on May 11, after he suspended Parliament in order to avoid a no confidence motion filed against his PPP/C by the opposition parties. The two major opposition parties, APNU (merger of the PNCR and WPA) and the AFC merged on Valentine’s Day to defeat the PPPC which has been in power for 22 years. The Opposition is contending that the PPPC is corrupt.

The electoral system in Guyana is different from the other countries in the region, since it is being conducted on Proportional Representation (PR) — where the electorates vote for a party and not a candidate. A party must have to poll 50 per cent of the votes in order to effectively form a government.

In the last election, the PPPC failed to secure half of the votes, but it nevertheless formed a majority government, but encountered difficulties in its administration because the combined Opposition outvoted the governing party. However, the party which secured most of the votes (not necessarily 50 per cent) will choose the president.

As I write, Belize is preparing for local government elections, which will be held on March 4 and political pundits say that the results will determine whether two-term Prime Minister Dean Barrow will continue as head of Government. His United Democratic Party (UDP) will get stiff opposition from Francis Fonseca’s People’s United Party (PUP). At the last general elections, the UDP gained 17 seats while the opposition movement secured 14.

Elections in the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago are due before the end of this year and no doubt it will be a keen struggle for Kamla Persad Bissessar of the UNC to retain her position as Prime Minister, since there are signs that her party’s merger with three other parties are showing signs of “cracking up,” especially from the large Congress of the People (COP) movement.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) has a relatively new leader in Keith Rowley and he has been criticized for “wining down” with a 17 year-old during the carnival festivities.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, elections are constitutionally due in December, but there is rumbling that three-term Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves might call elections a few months before, since the Argyle international airport cannot be completed by year end and he might, in electioneering, tell the electorate that if they want the airport to be completed they have to return his Unity Labour Party (ULP) to office. Moreover, it is rumoured that there is “in fighting” within the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), headed by economist Arnhim Eustace.

Oscar Ramjeet

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