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Watch on 3 new Caricom polls

ANALYSIS

Rickey Singh

Sunday, December 16, 2012    

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THREE new general elections, two of them snap polls, could take place in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) within the first quarter of 2013, according to current developments that are creating political jitters for governing parties in the Eastern Caribbean.

They are the governments of Barbados, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis. And the prime ministers of all three are hoping to prove quite wrong predictions of defeat by their detractors and opponents.

In worst-case scenarios being spun by their opponents and critics, the prime ministers of all three states could well be spending their last Christmas as heads of government. For Barbados' Freundel Stuart, who succeeded the late David Thompson in October 2010, this could also translate to the first-ever one-term government for the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

Neither Stuart nor the party he leads would be amused by such a prediction — orchestrated by spreading optimism of a coming "electoral landslide" generated by former three-term Prime Minister Owen Arthur's Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which has formed the Government for 14 successive years.

The BLP's optimism is being differently mirrored in Grenada by leader of the Opposition New National Party (NNP), Keith Mitchell, who had also served as prime minister through many Christmases while heading three successive administrations in St Georges.

In contrast to challenges being faced by Stuart in relation to national issues of economic management, job creation and rising cost of living, the bad news for Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas is that of widening internal divisions within his National Democratic Congress (NDC) involving party executives and cabinet ministers.

Fears of two PMs

Currently, while Grenada's Parliament remains prorogued for five months now, and linked to the prime minister's fear of having to contend with a likely successful "no-confidence" motion against his divided NDC Administration, Mitchell's NNP is openly behaving as if victory is secured whenever Thomas rings the election bell for a poll that could take place within the next three months.

At present, the political challenges are just as bad, if not worse, for long-serving prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas. His St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party, re-elected in January last year for a fourth successive term, has been in control of state power for some 17 years.

He now seems confined to facing a gloomy Christmas pondering options for a snap general election, with three years still to go, to conclude what could well be the final time his party forms successive administrations.

Dr Douglas's political woes with his own party colleagues, who have been registering dissatisfaction with his leadership style, among other differences, is severe enough to have compelled him to announce postponement of the Government's 2013 budget that was scheduled to be presented in Parliament this past Tuesday.

The reason? Two ministers of his administration, which is wobbling along with a slender majority in the 15-seat National Assembly, failed to show up for a pre-budget presentation Cabinet meeting and, in so doing, sparked uneasiness over aspects of the coming fiscal package.

Seeking to minimise the political embarrassment, Douglas opted to make a national broadcast with assurances to citizens that the coming budget would be a completely tax-free package. Absence of ministers from scheduled Cabinet meetings have compounded fears for the longevity of Prime Minister Douglas's Administration.

Varying degrees of this fear of possible defeat haunt ruling parties at this time also in Barbados and Grenada. But for their part, and expectedly, the prime ministers of all three countries continue to project optimism for a return to government. And why not? As the saying goes, in politics all things are possible.

Wishful thinking?

The cynics may dismiss this as merely wishful thinking by the incumbent parties in Barbados, Grenada and St Kitts-Nevis. Well, for a start, here in Jamaica, when then Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on December 5 last year a snap poll for December 29, he was quite optimistic to prove the pollsters wrong, only to face a landslide victory by Portia Simpson Miller's PNP.

Much earlier, on December 20, 2007, then Prime Minister Owen Arthur had announced a new general election for January 15, 2008, only to face a crushing defeat from the then Opposition DLP which ended his three successive administrations.

Now, the most pertinent question is whether, for all the prevailing controversies over the state of the economy, rising unemployment and cost of living, Barbadian voters are really ready to restrict an incumbent party to a one-term government. It has never happened since political Independence 46 years ago.

Guyana scenario

Meanwhile, in Guyana there continues to be speculation of a likely snap poll during 2013 should the People's Progressive Party-led Administration in Georgetown consider that it has had enough of the combined opposition's manipulations of a one-seat parliamentary majority in the 65-member National Assembly during 2008 that frustrate social and economic progress.

November 28 marked the first year of President Donald Ramotar's Administration since the 2011 presidential, parliamentary and regional elections.

The chief justice, Ian Chang, has fixed December 22 to begin hearing of an application by attorney general and minister of legal affairs Anil Nandall on a ruling by the speaker of Parliament, Raphael Trotman, against Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee.

The AG is contending that the continued denial of Minister Rohee's right to speak in Parliament and present motions and/or legislation by the two Opposition parties (APNU and AFC) which together control 33 votes to the PPP's 32, is unconstitutional, and that the speaker is enabling the 'frustrating process' of constitutional democratic governance.

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