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Elections and politicians

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Politicians and political parties in countries where elections are contested have a common nose for electoral results, irrespective of their own political or ideological perspectives.

Thus, they follow the outcome of elections far and wide, directly connected or not, and seek to interpret those results to their own advantage. Whether Government or Opposition, every electoral result is given a spin as a means of cheering up one’s supporters.{{more}}

Sometimes though, things are not so straightforward. Take the USA for example. There, given the presence of a black President, and the traditional leaning towards the Democratic Party, there ought to be across-the-board support in the Caribbean for President Obama and his Democrats in any electoral campaign. But, contradictorily, some political parties have political ties to the Republican Party, and where they share opposition status, have to balance between ethnic considerations and opportunist interpretations of defeats for incumbents.

Last week’s mid-term elections in the USA have handed President Obama major setbacks, as he completes the final part of his presidency. Fortunately for him, that term is limited, unlike those of our Westminster-system politicians, and difficult as it is, President Obama knows that, come 2016, he has no further electoral battle to face.

His Caribbean counterparts have no such comfort. In the space of the next 15/18 months, elections bells will be ringing in several Caribbean countries. In fact, one has already been rung in Dominica, and by December, Prime Minister Skerritt may well be celebrating yet another victory. For his counterparts in the “Saints” – St Lucia, St Kitts/Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines, it may not be so predictable.

In all three countries, the incumbent parties, and Prime Ministers in particular, have enjoyed the trappings of office, and endured the ordeals too, for the better part of two decades, with a brief interruption in the case of St Lucia. In all three too, there has been public discussion, and in some cases even manifesto commitment to the ideal of limiting the terms of office of Prime Ministers. Easier said than done, given our experiences. It will be interesting to see how Prime Ministers Douglas, Anthony and Gonsalves handle the economic and political challenges, and, how their challengers seek to map out clear alternatives.

Locally, PM Gonsalves and his ULP are seeking a fourth successive term in the face of formidable challenges. Some of these, the economic realities in particular, are not always of their own making. But they have also created problems for themselves in governance, despite impressive social advances. They, and their supporters, seem intent on creating more problems for themselves.

The PM himself has done his country proud in regional and international affairs and enjoys the highest profile among regional political leaders. Yet, he must be careful not to squander his hard-earned political capital. Some of that capital has been gained through his strategic interventions in the field of West Indies cricket. It is precisely in this arena though, that he risks some losses.

Much as most Vincentians would like to see some sanity and pride restored to Caribbean cricket, there is widespread concern about whether the PM’s efforts to resolve the latest, and most destructive row in West Indies cricket, is going to saddle taxpayers with the US$ 42 million bill arising from the cricketing debacle from the aborted tour of India. To think of our cash-strapped governments taking on that responsibility when the perpetrators go scot-free will certainly add to the political problems of all incumbents. I don’t have the benefit of a poll, but thus far, I have not encountered one person in favour of our country paying for the sins of Cameron, Hinds, Bravo and company.

Issues like those may seem minor, but they do have the potential to erode support, and when combined with a host of other such “minor” issues, can have political repercussions. Time will tell.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.

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