ST. LU­CIA GEARS UP FOR POLLS

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By

Peter W. Wick­ham,

Saint Lu­cia’s Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kenny An­thony sur­prised most of us by call­ing the gen­eral elec­tion, which is con­sti­tu­tion­ally due be­tween Novem­ber 2016 and Fe­bru­ary 2017, six months early. The logic of this early call, along with other fac­tors that could im­pact on the out­come, now need to be prop­erly an­a­lysed. It was, there­fore, un­for­tu­nate that Dr Ten­nyson Joseph, who en­joys a po­si­tion of some promi­nence within re­gional academia and is also Saint Lu­cian, used a fo­rum sim­i­lar to this to slap down the po­lit­i­cal leader of the UWP for lack­ing “St Lu­cian-ness”.

Al­beit, the ar­ti­cle car­ried a dis­claimer speak­ing to Joseph’s po­lit­i­cal cre­den­tials; how­ever, this al­le­giance should not stand in the way of an in­de­pen­dent anal­y­sis that does jus­tice to th­ese same cre­den­tials of which he wrote. Iron­i­cally, his anal­y­sis missed the most im­por­tant com­par­i­son which is the fact that Joseph, like Chas­tanet, also never won a seat although pos­sess­ing the “St Lu­cian- ness” deemed an in­gre­di­ent nec­es­sary for suc­cess in Saint Lu­cian pol­i­tics.

Sub­stan­tively, there are sev­eral is­sues that arise with An­thony’s an­nounce­ment with the first be­ing the ra­tio­nale be­hind his early call es­pe­cially as one con­sid­ers that re­cently early elec­tions in Saint Lu­cia, Ja­maica, and Trinidad and Tobago (2011) did not go well for the in­cum­bent.

An­thony, there­fore, must have some com­pelling rea­son. One pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion could arise from the pre­sump­tion that An­thony’s re-elec­tion strat­egy is pred­i­cated on the UWP not be­ing ready, as re­flected in the ex­tent to which it was un­til re­cently highly dis­united and seem­ingly unattrac­tive. The Saint Lu­cian public was well aware of the ex­tent to which UWP stal­warts like Le­nard Montoute, Stephen­son King and Richard Fred­er­ick were un­com­fort­able with the lead­er­ship. It was also widely be­lieved that a po­lit­i­cal mar­riage of con­ve­nience was about to take place be­tween An­thony and King, who seemed set to join his other UWP for­mer prime min­is­ter in a place of po­lit­i­cal com­fort in a fu­ture SLP gov­ern­ment.

Al­most overnight, how­ever, ev­ery­thing changed since King seems to have had an epiphany and re-dis­cov­ered his love for the UWP and com­mit­ment to its present leader, while Montoute now seems sim­i­larly in­clined to­wards UWP po­lit­i­cal love­mak­ing. Fred­er­ick, on the other hand, has re­cently ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to sit out this elec­tion and is there­fore less toxic for the UWP.

The last straw was per­haps the de­fec­tion of for­mer SLP MP Sarah Flood-Beaubrun to the UWP’s ranks, which is a note­wor­thy coup to the ex­tent that it demon­strates the ex­tent to which the UWP is now a po­lit­i­cally at­trac­tive force.

Although Joseph’s anal­y­sis of the two per­son­al­i­ties con­tend­ing for lead­er­ship ap­pears un­nec­es­sar­ily in­flu­enced by his own pol­i­tics, he does make a valid point about the ex­tent to which An­thony has a clear ad­van­tage over Chas­tanet when it comes to “St Lu­cian-ness”. Per­son­al­i­ties aside, there is, how­ever, lit­tle else that An­thony can pos­i­tively iden­tify as be­ing in his favour. The Saint Lu­cian econ­omy con­tin­ues to strug­gle. In ad­di­tion, An­thony car­ries the weight of sev­eral is­sues which he has man­aged badly. In­cluded among th­ese are the IMPACS re­port on ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings by mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force, the Sheikh Walid Juffali diplo­matic im­mu­nity af­fair and the con­tro­ver­sial Ci­ti­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme.

On the his­toric and sta­tis­ti­cal side, An­thony’s SLP looks even less at­trac­tive since it now holds 51 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote, which means that a swing of more than one per cent would put it into op­po­si­tion and, worse, the swing in the last five elec­tions has al­ways been greater than one per cent. Numer­i­cally, Chas­tanet needs to win three seats, and co­in­ci­den­tally there are four (Gros Islet, Babon­neau, Anse-La Raye and Choiseul) which the SLP would cede if the UWP achieved a one per­son swing at the lo­cal level.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, Choiseul now ap­pears more promis­ing as for­mer UWP MP Ru­fus Bous­quet, who still holds sub­stan­tial in­flu­ence, has de­clined to run as an in­de­pen­dent which clears the way for his UWP suc­ces­sor. In a sit­u­a­tion where An­thony and the SLP pre­vail, notwith­stand­ing, he would ef­fec­tively be cre­at­ing elec­toral his­tory in Saint Lu­cia. Peter W. Wick­ham is a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant and a di­rec­tor of Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Re­search Ser­vices (CADRES). Email: peter.w.wick­ham@gmail.com

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