ELECTION TIME IN CARICOM

At least five general elections are scheduled to be held in the 15-nation Caribbean Community this year including three in the politically volatile Southern Caribbean region but if opinion polls are anything to go by at least three could result in new governments.

First out of the starting blocks will most likely be St. Kitts and Nevis as Prime Minister Denzil Douglas Tuesday night fixed Monday Feb. 16 as the date when islanders will vote for a new government.

Douglas, head of government since the late 90s, will face challenges from an opposition group, Team Unity, headed by former foreign minister Timothy Harris and including Douglas’ ex deputy prime minister, Sam Condor.

The faction broke away from Douglas’ Labor Party several years ago, complaining about his links to the underworld, a well developed dictatorial management style, the implementation of a controversial dollars for St. Kitts passport scheme, citizenship grants to foreigners and general widespread corruption involving high officials.

Next in line most likely could be Guyana, the mainland South American country that is home to the region’s administrative secretariat and one of the original founders of the community.

Its general and regional elections are scheduled for Monday, May 11 and a concerted effort is being made to oust the Indo-led People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which has run the country since October 1992 amid credible domestic and international charges of widespread corruption, official blessings of the narco trade and the use of private hit squads to take out suspected criminals among other malfeasant acts.

A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), which the PPP defeated by a mere 26,000 votes feels that it will form a new government by May 12 when the bulk of the results should be known. It is led by retired army commander Brig. Gen. David Granger.

In the same month of May, voters in neighboring Suriname, which is the other geographical continental nation in the regional bloc, will vote for a new government on May 25, five years to the date when former military strongman and two-time coup-maker Desi Bouterse was elected president with a decent parliamentary majority.

His National Democratic Party (NDP) is the main political force in the multi-party Mega Combination which will compete with the New Front Coalition Group that has run the country several times since independence from The Netherlands in late 1975.

Just north of Guyana and Suriname is oil and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago. The mandate of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Indo-led People’s Partnership administration expires on May 25 as well but she is yet to set a date for fresh elections.

Like her counterparts in Guyana, the main charges against the PP are linked to runaway corruption, the enrichment of a class of friends and family of people linked to the ruling elite, the growing power of narco traffickers and government’s inability to stem a murder every 36 hours and an economy that is slowly sinking under very soft oil prices.

The Afro-dominated People’s National Movement (PNM) of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley is likely to wrest control from Persad-Bissessar if political loyalties hold steady in the coming months.

And just further north of Tobago lies St. Vincent and the smaller Grenadines island group. Its polls must be held by December 2015.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is rushing to complete construction of a new airport with a runway that is adequate to accommodate international jet aircraft. Like neighboring Dominica, their main airports can only cater to commuter aircraft and mid-sized private jets, robbing the islands of the chance of expanding their lifeline tourists sectors. The airport project would likely be Gonsalves’ main campaign item sell to voters.

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