The New Democratic Party’s (NDP) increase in popular votes does not trump the fact that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) has formed government with an additional seat.
This is the view expressed by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves this week during the swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet.
The ULP returned victorious from the polls on November 5, claiming an extra seat than they did in 2015, for a 9-6 victory against the NDP. This win solidified the party’s return to office for a fifth consecutive term.
But despite their increase in seats, the party lost the popular vote. Where the ULP gained 32,415 or 49.5 per cent of the total votes, the NDP received 32,899 or 50.3 per cent of the votes.
“Still, at the end of the electoral day, the people of this country, balancing all relevant factors expressed its governance preference for the Unity Labour Party over the New Democratic Party,” Gonsalves said on Tuesday evening to an audience in Heritage Square.
He added that “no chest thumping by the NDP about their increased popular support or their wafer-thin plurality of votes over the ULP can mask the fact of the people’s settled confirmation that the ULP must remain in office and with an additional seat”.
This is the first time that the ULP has lost the popular vote since 1998, when it had a 10-percentage point margin over the NDP in popular votes and lost the election by one seat.
In 1998, Gonsalves expressed the notion that despite the NDP’s one-seat majority under the first-past-the-post system, the party’s win lacked legitimacy and moral authority.
The leadership of the ULP at the time pledged to make the country “ungovernable” and this was subsequently followed by a series of protest actions by non governmental organizations.
It was also followed by a period which is often now referred to as the “Road Block Revolution”. These events prompted the intervention of CARICOM, which resulted in a meeting in Grenada with the leadership of both the ULP and NDP.
It was there that it was decided that General Elections would be held within the six- month period which followed.
It was in March 2001 that the ULP began the first of what is now a fifth term in office in this country.
Gonsalves on Tuesday, said that the NDP, which has been in opposition since then, is yet to return to their “favourable electoral condition of February 1994 – over 26 years ago”.
He added that the notion that the 2020 General Elections is a reprise of the 1998 Elections, is “entirely delusional”.
“In 1998, the ULP had a 10-percentage point margin over the NDP in popular votes and lost by one seat. In 2020, the NDP has a majority of popular votes of roughly one half of one percentage point over the ULP and lost the election by two seats. I ask those who engage in sophistry to please look at the 2020 electoral map,” he said.
On the map, the ULP captured the entire Eastern side of the country with all seven constituencies. It also claimed two of the three constituencies on the Leeward side of the island; North and Central Leeward.
The NDP claimed the third leeward constituency, South Leeward and all of the Kingstown seats; West, Central and East Kingstown as well as both the Northern and Southern Grenadines.
“On mainland St Vincent, the NDP trails the ULP by nearly 2000 votes. These are unvarnished facts,” the prime minister said.
He added that “the ULP’s five-in-a-row accomplishment emerged from an epic electoral battle in which a veritable triad of anti-national elements fuelled by the money of passport buying brigands from overseas, Europe and China – and facilitated greatly by paid, foreign mindbenders, armed with digital colonialism and a hegemonic neoliberal ideology – a raid against our nation in its ongoing quest to lift SVG higher in every material particular”.
Gonsalves said persons did not believe that the ULP could win a fifth term in office.
He said his political party prevailed because it is “politically on the side of the angels in defence of our nation’s patrimony, its sacraments of nationhood and the people’s interest”.
The prime minister added that the ULP administration has been given an opportunity to lift SVG higher.
“The people in nine of the 15 separate constituency elections, which constitute the General Elections, gave the mandate to ULP to continue its strategic socioeconomic transformation of our country in the people’s interest,” he said. “They accepted my clarion call not to let us leave behind any unfinished task. We accept the people’s verdict with solemnity and humility and we accept the blessings of Almighty God.”
Gonsalves noted that his party is one with weaknesses and limitations that require ongoing correctives and remedial action as much as is possible.
He also said that there are lessons to be learnt in the results of the election, which he ensures will be heeded; one of which is that many of ULP’s traditional supporters and younger voters stayed away from the polls for various reasons.