February 25, 2014
PM Gonsalves marks 20 years as MP

Last Friday, February 21st, marked 20 years since current Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was first elected to Parliament here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Gonsalves won the North Central Windward seat in the February 21st, 1994 elections, after earlier unsuccessful attempts in the 1979, 1984 and 1989 general elections. He secured 2,702 votes to 1,190 for his opponent from the then ruling New Democratic Party.

“The true test of the capacity of a man is his capacity to withstand the wilderness years and to do so without the desire for revenge,” Gonsalves said on radio Friday, as he reflected on the run-up to his first electoral victory.

Gonsalves’ seat was the first and only one for his then Movement for National Unity (MNU), which had contested the ‘94 polls as part of an electoral alliance with the main opposition St Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), then under the leadership of lawyer Stanley “Stalky” John. Under the arrangement, the MNU contested six of the fifteen seats (North Windward, North Central Windward, West St George, East Kingstown, West Kingstown, and Southern Grenadines) and the SVLP the remaining nine. The arrangement also saw veteran politician Vincent Beache, with whom Gonsalves had fought bruising battles in the North Central Windward constituency, switching to the South Windward constituency, which was one of two won for the Labour Party – the other being Central Leeward. Party leader Stalky John lost in his bid for the East St George seat.

The MNU and SVLP formalised the electoral arrangement in October 1994 with the formation of the Unity Labour Party (ULP), with Beache as its first leader and Dr Gonsalves as his deputy.

Dr Gonsalves took over the ULP’s leadership when Beache stepped down shortly after the 1998 elections, which the new ULP narrowly lost 7-8, although gaining 55 percent of the votes cast. Gonsalves subsequently led the ULP to a 12-3 electoral victory in the 2001 elections, and will mark 13 years as Prime Minister in April this year.

He said the country has recorded “remarkable progress” during his tenure as Prime Minister with education, housing, infrastructural development, poverty alleviation, and the soon to be completed Argyle international airport among his crowning achievements.