R. Rose
February 27, 2015
NDP basking in Team Unity victory

The recent elections in St Kitts/Nevis is still the talk of the day throughout much of the Caribbean, given our love for politics in this region. It is all the more so given the longevity of the defeated Denzil Douglas regime, its refusal to subject itself to Parliamentary censure and the protracted process leading up to the elections itself.

Further spice was given to the political struggle there by the fact that the new Prime Minister Timothy Harris, along with Douglas’ former long-standing deputy, Sam Condor, himself a casualty of the elections, emerged out of the very bowels of Douglas’ Labour Party, splitting with their former leader, not on any major ideological or programmatic grounds, but on personal ones, including the issue of leadership and the timing of Douglas’ departure.{{more}}

It was Douglas’ intransigence, refusal to entertain compromise, and haughty defiance of Parliamentary will, which led to the impasse and his eventual demise. It is another lesson in the sovereignty of the people which seems so extremely difficult for politicians to absorb.

The twin-island state of St Kitts and Nevis has had a chequered history arising from British colonial policy which caused political problems nearly half a century ago, and led to the re-absorption of Anguilla, then a part of a three-island combination, into the British colonial fold. Since then there have been many frictions between St Kitts and Nevis, leading to the latter island having its own House of Assembly. It has always been a complicated situation.

The split in the Labour camp brought about a new scenario threatening the continued hold on power by the Douglas administration. But blinded by an imagined sense of political infallibility, Douglas would not budge and his erstwhile political chums, Harris and Condor, refused to bow to his apparent high-handedness.

Harris even turned to one of his Labour colleagues in the region, our own Prime Minister Gonsalves, seeking his intervention in resolving the matter. As far as I can gather, there were some early attempts at mediation, to try and keep the dissenting pair in the Labour camp, but to no avail. Dissatisfied at the failure to bring Douglas to heel, Harris and Condor turned elsewhere, making peace with their former opponents at home and forming the Team Unity coalition which is now governing.

Not just at home either, for as Douglas insisted on treating Parliament as his personal fiefdom, Team Unity sought support in the region and internationally to force him to come to heel. It opened the way to a partnership with Gonsalves’ political opponents here in SVG. The New Democratic Party (NDP), to its credit, gave unqualified support to the cause of Team Unity, raising the banner of democracy and linking its fortunes with that of those in St Kitts and Nevis striving to bring Douglas to account.

The NDP leadership therefore, not surprisingly views Team Unity’s victory as a moral one for it too, given its identification with that coalition’s struggles and, conversely, with the defeated Labour party’s own identification with Gonsalves’ Labour in SVG. It not only savours Harris’ victory, it is virtually basking in the glory of it and will milk it until that political cow runs dry.

There is a sense in which, in our Caribbean, each electoral victory for a party previously in the Opposition, each defeat of an incumbent government, gives succour to the hopes of every other Opposition party in the region, irrespective of ideological perspective. This is certainly true in the case of the NDP. One can sense a new spring in its step, an impression that the leadership is almost salivating at its prospects in the Vincentian elections with a maximum of 13 months to go.

Indeed, NDP leader Arnhim Eustace, is already being “crowned” in his camp, hailed as the incoming Prime Minister and champion of democracy in the region. Even his customary frown is being replaced with a smiling look as his party gears up for its next joust at the political throne.

This is sure to intensify the electoral battle here and one can expect testing times over such issues as electoral boundaries, the Voters’ list and overseas Vincentians returning home to vote, all issues in St Kitts and Nevis. The NDP would do well though to learn from similar euphoria leading up to the 2010 poll. A labour victory in the Dominica elections of December 2014 was not enough to give the Kittitian Labour a victory platform. Nor does a Labour defeat in St Kitts and Nevis automatically ring the death knell for Labour in St Lucia or SVG. Each country has its own peculiarities, its leadership issues, its record of achievements. Each battle will take its own course.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.