Pay attention to election issues around us
August 25, 2020

Pay attention to election issues around us

With elections now very much in the air in the Caribbean, it is only natural that we begin to pay attention not just to our own campaigning in St Vincent and the Grenadines but to the outcome and, more importantly conduct of elections in the countries around us.

Sadly, while there has been some comment, more on social media than in the mainstream media, it is true to say that we seem to be following developments in the upcoming November presidential elections in the US more closely than what has been happening in our own backyard. Given the power and influence of our neighbour to the north and its wide-ranging tentacles, that is understandable, but no excuse not to be following and learning from what is happening right around us.

While it may be going too far to describe our reactions to regional events as apathetic, it must be a source of concern that Guyana, the seat of CARICOM, took more than FIVE MONTHS for the winner of its March 2 election to be declared. Imagine what would be our reaction if five days after an election here, there was no announcement of a winner!

Yet, except for some comment here and there we treated it as though it were of no major concern to us. But it was not so when we were prompted about elections in Venezuela. Worse, we appeared to be more concerned about who would win than with the issue of free and fair elections, a matter that we profess is at the heart of our democracy.

Then there was Trinidad and Tobago, a country with whom we have substantial blood, social and economic ties. There, the losers of the elections two weeks ago, brazenly refused to concede defeat, forcing recounts which only embarrassed them in the end. Again, our response was relatively low-keyed. Is it now becoming common practice for sore losers to question the legitimacy of elections on all kinds of spurious grounds?

Again, are we not collectively undermining the very system to which we profess our commitment when we remain silent in the face of these erosive actions? Is this system of elections not held so dearly, according to our statements, that we are even prepared to back foreign military intervention in our region to guarantee the regular holding of free and fair elections?

One other example of how we are slipping can be seen in our virtual ignoring of what happened in St Kitts / Nevis at its 2015 elections. There, on election night, the then Supervisor of Elections abandoned the counting of ballots and declaration of results on election night, literally locked up his office and went home. He has just lost another of his fruitless court battles to have charges against him dismissed.

We here harried and harassed our Supervisor of Elections, virtually hounding her from office on grounds not substantiated by the Courts. Where are we heading?

This is one region with a common heritage, sharing fundamental principles so we have every right to be concerned as negative trends rear their ugly heads. Take heed!