April 29, 2005

Elections, a marathon or a sprint to the finish?

General elections are constitutionally due by July 2006, but if one listens to the tenor of some radio talk shows, one could be fooled into thinking that the bell has already rang.

The opposition New Democratic Party has been first out of the blocks. Following their party convention at which former party president and founder Sir James Mitchell came out of retirement, the party has been on a high. {{more}}

The NDP seemed to be experiencing a robust process of candidate selection or pre-selection, as they began to fine-tune their electioneering machinery. Whatever grumbling may have been heard in the corridors seemed to dissipate, and the nation has heard that the party has all but settled on Daniel Cummings to challenge Tourism Minister Rene Baptiste for the West Kingstown seat, effectively putting paid to the ambitions of Curtis Dennie, the early runner.

As the NDP sought to demonstrate that this was a new New Democratic Party, St.Claire Leacock all but thrust himself on the party as caretaker for the Central Kingstown seat. This surprised few persons as Leacock; “the Major” after all, has been one of the brighter sparks on the opposition benches in parliament where he sits as senator. He is just biding his time before his official launch, which he makes the rounds of the constituency being represented at present by the ULP’s Conrad Sayers.

The party has still not announced all of its candidates and may be holding back other announcements for maximum impact.

Meanwhile, there are still a few disgruntled wannabe candidates who may never leave the party’s fold if or when they are finally deselected as the candidate of choice.

But while the NDP has had two official launches, what has the incumbent ULP been doing? There has been a flurry of activity by the sitting government. From November 2004, the country began to experience a hectic series of project openings reminiscent of a pre-election period. Some of the openings did not necessarily mean that the buildings or projects were up and running but merely in some cases, nearly ready.

These covered some of the better points of the ULP’s first four years, such as the Low Income Housing projects which have provided homes for several hundred persons.

At the same time the opposition has been trying to beat to death issues such as the new fuel surcharge which has increased electricity costs and the minibus dissatisfaction.

But in all of this the ULP has been holding on as the Prime Minister plays his game with the trump card, that date for the next poll, which could be any moment.

What is very evident is that this next general elections are going to be more hectic that any other. There is so much both parties feel at stake. And a lot of money is going to be spent, wasted in a poor country, which can use this money for needy development purposes.

But such is our political culture.