The incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of Arnhim Eustace have both nominated candidates to contest all 15 seats in the Dec. 13 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Electoral officials in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, said that the minority St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Green Party (SVGGP) of Ivan O’Neal has nominated 13 candidates. There are no independents. The 15-day registration period ended on Nov. 30.
The polls are being held nearly four months ahead of the constitutional deadline of March next year.
Political observers say the ULP, which is seeking a third consecutive term in office, will face a strong challenge from the NDP, whose leader, economist Eustace, is a former prime minister.
Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer, will contest the North Central Windward seat. He will be challenged by NDP’s Kenroy Johnson, a school teacher.
Eustace, on the other hand, will contest the East Kingstown constituency with ULP’s Rhodes Scholar Luke Browne and SVGGP’s Alana Sabrina Ells.
Dr. Adrian Fraser, a respected historian and newspaper columnist, said that the NDP faces a tough fight in dethroning the ULP.
He said the NDP, whose founder, Sir James F. Mitchell, a former prime minister, must convince nationals that it is “a different party than that which was removed from office in 2001.”
Before the 2001 general elections’ defeat, the NDP had ruled St. Vincent and the Grenadines for 17 uninterrupted years.
Fraser, the University of the West Indies (UWI) resident tutor, said the ULP has a “group of untested recruits”, while the NDP has “a group that has been untested in terms of political office”.
Renwick Rose, another newspaper columnist and prominent community activist, said while the current election campaign is very similar to the past three, the NDP has intensified its bid to regain office.
“This is born out of a deluded confidence that stopping Dr. Gonsalves in his attempt to have a new Constitution approved last year would, by itself, be a recipe for general election victory,” said Rose, who is also general secretary of the Windward Islands Banana Farmers Association (WINBAN).
In the November 2009 referendum, the NDP secured 55.64 per cent of the ballots cast, while the ULP received 43.13 per cent.
But Lawyer Jomo Thomas, who is also a newspaper columnist, said the NDP should not be fooled by the referendum result.
He made it clear that “a referendum is not an election”, stating that the national economy, party leadership, constituency issues, among others, “make for a world of difference” in general elections.
Thomas, general secretary of People’s Movement for Change, a socio-political movement, said that while the ULP, under Gonsalves, has “turned off” some voters, many are disenchanted by what the NDP has to offer.
“They do not think the NDP is ready or able to steer the ship of state in these difficult times”, he said.