November 27, 2009
Pollster surprised by size of Yes Vote defeat

Political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham believes that yesterday’s rejection of a new constitution by Vincentians can be viewed as an indictment on Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and his Government.{{more}}

Speaking with Searchlight as the final poll results were being made public, Wickham said he was surprised by the size of the difference between the “yes” and “no” votes, pointing out that while he had serious doubts about whether the measure would get the required 67 per cent of total votes cast, he did not expect the Government to perform so poorly.

However, he stressed that all indications prior to the vote were that Gonsalves’ standing among Vincentians was strong and it was hardly likely that yesterday’s outcome had erased that.

“Politically he still has considerable weight,” Wickham said, “but he has now to take appropriate steps to determine the way forward. The next few days will be quite interesting.

“I believe he must take steps to institute a vigorous public relations campaign to separate himself politically from the outcome of a referendum on a new constitution.”

Interestingly, Wickham said he was surprised that so many Vincentians turned out to vote Wednesday, explaining that he expected that no more than 40 per cent would have voted. Traditionally, he said, around 60 per cent of Vincentian electors vote during general elections, and as is the pattern with referenda, he expected a smaller number of voters would have turned out.

“I was expecting around 40 per cent,” he added.

Meanwhile, Wickham said that because of the different systems employed, he did not think the pending constitutional reform in St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago would be influenced significantly by what occurred in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, he added, this might not be the case with Jamaica.

“I suspect that [Prime Minister Bruce] Golding is right now watching very carefully what is happening in St. Vincent.”

A more probably region-wide response, he said, might be a whole new look at how constitutional changes are attempted.

“There are a lot of lesson for constitutional reforms to be learnt from this, and you may discover that in the future major changes are attempted in small bites,” he said, adding this might however turn out to be more expensive and time consuming to implement.