December 9, 2005

Election result, a signal for introspection

The masses have spoken. For the second successive term the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have chosen the Unity Labour Party to shape the destiny of our young nation by a margin of 12 to 3, a repeat of the 2001 result.

This however is a victory that will give the incumbent ULP cause to sit down and reflect on the way the party in government will operate going forward. The opposition New Democratic Party, even in defeat, will be pleased with the showing it made in increasing its share of the popular vote, even though it was not enough to see the party re-elected to office. {{more}}This has been an exercise in democracy at its best though marked by what can only be called voter apathy, as many registered voters did not turn out to vote.

This campaign has been one of the longest and most hard fought in the political history of our multi-island nation. It was one that saw persons on both sides of the political divide openly and fearlessly stating where they stood on issues. Indeed these elections were the culmination of a process that began with the increased politicization of this nation following the signal protest which followed the elections of 1998 and forced the calling of elections in 2001, elections which saw the ULP coming to power for the first time with Dr. Ralph Gonsalves as Prime Minister.

From early on, the opposition NDP sought to make leadership an issue by their constant attacks directed at the persona of Dr. Gonsalves. They put him directly in their sights and in that way they unwittingly juxtaposed his charismatic personality with that of their own leader Arnhim Eustace who paled in comparison as being charismatically challenged. The wily Gonsalves took on the challenge and declared himself “rootical” as he endeared himself to the broad masses of people.

Eustace was to make another of his serious errors by attacking the media rather than attempting to endear himself to the communicators of the nation. In an election year a leader can hardly ever afford the luxury of a falling out with the media. Dr Gonsalves, on the other hand, made himself readily available to all media houses at all times, even outside of his regular media briefings. His opponent preferred to rely mainly on his party’s chosen medium Nice Radio and the party’s own popular programme New Times.

While that programme’s talented host E.G. Lynch must be credited for galvanizing the NDP faithful, it was probably on the question of leadership that the NDP gambled and lost, literally.

The NDP’s showing may suggest that it was on the right path since most of their candidates increased on the votes their party’s candidates gained in 2001. One can therefore expect a continuation of their robust opposition.

On the other hand this renewed mandate gives the ULP the green light to move full speed ahead with their major initiatives, such as the Argyle International Airport and the Rabacca Bridge, while consolidating the Education Revolution.

This result though, is clearly a warning to the ULP that they cannot take the wishes of the people for granted.

Did its elected representatives begin to lose touch with their base for example? It must signal to the ULP the need for serious introspection as the party continues to lead this nation along a path to progress.