July 30, 2021
St Lucia – A new day?

SEARCHLIGHT extends its congratulations to the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) which romped to an impressive victory in Monday’s general elections in that country, winning 13 of the 17 seats at stake. In addition, two former senior members of the outgoing administration, former Prime Minister Stephenson King and senior Minister Richard Frederick, retained their parliamentary seats, this time as independent candidates, not opposed by the SLP.

It proved to be a resounding defeat for the outgoing United Workers Party (UWP) government of Prime Minister Allan Chastanet, after only one term at the helm. In fact, the latest election maintained the trend in St Lucia of the changing of guard at every election since 2006. Then, the SLP swept to victory with 14 of the 17 seats, but at every election since, the incumbents have lost control of the government.

This is both remarkable and unique, certainly in politics in the Windward Islands and in the OECS as a whole. In all three of St Lucia’s Windwards’ neighbours, governments have enjoyed long stretches in office, including St Vincent and the Grenadines. Not so with our Lucian neighbours who have turned out the incumbents on every first opportunity at the polls over the past 15 years.

Whether this speaks to the strength of democratic choice or represents fickleness and instability has yet to be clearly established. Perhaps in the long run the electorate is of the view that fundamentally there is not much choice and hence it can switch sides at will, but clearly there is something different in St Lucian politics.

Whatever there may be, the people have spoken and their will must be respected. It was an election held in very challenging circumstances when the effects of the COVID pandemic are still being felt. St Lucia was particularly hard hit by the pandemic and has had to endure more restrictive protocols, including lockdowns than its neighbours. In addition it is one of the largest economies in the OECS and has a more developed and dependent tourism industry than most.

It is perhaps too early to dwell on speculations as to the future under the new government. For one, the manifestos of political parties these days are more of an academic exercise than any real indication of fundamental economic policy. Most parties present their manifestoes late in the game and it is the mobilization around the presentation, rather than the content, which seems to matter.

So we will have to watch and wait, as to whither the fortunes of our neighbour. We can only wish them well, for the collective good of us all.