ST. LUCIA GEARS UP FOR POLLS
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: firstname.lastname@example.org