November 26, 2004
Tis the season to be electioneering

Today, the refurbished Rose Hall Police Station will be commissioned; yesterday, it was the Kingstown Bus Terminal and last Monday, the focus was on the Golden Grove Learning Resource Centre.

That has kept up a trend kicked off with the opening of the George McIntosh Community Market in Paul’s Avenue followed by a hatchery at Dumbarton. The ground breaking ceremony for the Agency for Public Information/National Broadcasting Corporation, the inauguration of the Windward Water Project and the opening of the YWCA Headquarters at McKies Hill were to follow. {{more}}The spate of activities were designed to show the accomplishments of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration since assuming office just under four years ago. At all of these activities the government presented a varied slate of speakers with the only constant being the Prime Minister who was to deliver a feature address at each function. He is certainly enroute to breaking a record for the number of feature address given in any short period.

With this hectic spurt of events, the question being asked is whether there is an election looming.

General elections are constitutionally due before June 2006, including a mandatory three-month period after the first sitting of the new parliament following the March 28, 2001 poll.

However, with the stepped up pace of activity which resembles outright electioneering, many are speculating that the polls may be imminent. But Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves, with whom that final decision lies, seems intent on keeping everyone guessing though he constantly makes references to the 2006 election.

He had promised much earlier in the life of his administration that the entire Windward Highway would be refurbished before he “refreshes his mandate”.

There have, however, been some embarrassing delays on the segment of the Windward Highway presently in progress, a situation that has seen Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Senator Julian Francis, voicing open disapproval with the contractors Dipcon Engineering.

The government’s approach to the proposed construction of the Cross-Country Road, a major plank of the ULP’s 2001 election campaign, has been used by the NDP to galvanize support through protests. But Dr. Gonsalves and his Cabinet are adamant that the promise made to the electorate would be fulfilled.

Meanwhile several prospective candidates are already lining up, with jostling among incumbents and prospective runners with the battlefield becoming a potential minefield. Who will be blown away will be known in time.

We have already seen one challenger to no other than Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves himself in the person of young Cameron Balcombe whom many do not take seriously.

In Central Kingstown, St. Claire Leacock has all but thrown down the gauntlet to challenge Conrad Sayers in a constituency where he fancies his chances. In West Kingstown, several persons are eyeing the seat held by the dynamic Rene Baptiste but seem to be timid in coming forward, though the increased activism of John Horne suggests he may be contemplating another go.

In South Windward, Sir Vincent Beache’s stated intention to vacate has thrown the ULP into selection mode with some more experienced Labourites eyeing the seat that may otherwise have been a shoo-in for the inexperienced Senator Glen Beache. And the boldest of all has long been Senator Julian Francis’ announced challenge to Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. In other constituences, there are other persons shadow boxing as they try to test the mood of would-be voters.

‘Tis is the season to be merry, but also to smile and back slap as political animals grow election thirsty. This is how we approach the month of December and the season of goodwill to all men.

So is an election imminent? And if so, when that will be is anybody’s guess and the Prime Minister’s prerogative.