IN this season of electioneering and politicking in the eastern Caribbean, at least two prime ministers have begun to mobilise supporters for likely polls within coming months.
That’s the current scenario in Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda amid growing speculation that Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas, may also feel compelled to move for a snap poll in the face of challenges facing his shaky Labour Party administration.
On February 19, elections were held in Grenada, where the
incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas was wiped out with the leader himself losing his seat, and the return to power of Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP).
Two days later, in Barbados, the Democratic Labour Party of
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart managed to secure a second term with a two-seat majority in the 30-member House of Assembly.
Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda both held elections in 2009 with the incumbents returning to power but amid a crescendo of complaints about alleged electoral malpractices.
Now fresh from winning a court battle against an opposition challenge to his eligibility to run for parliament, Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerritt, is calling on supporters to back his Labour Party for a “clean sweep” victory at coming elections. Skerritt’s DLP had scored a landslide 18-3 parliamentary victory over its traditional challenger, the United Workers Party (UWP), at the 2009 poll.
Seemingly more energised following his victory in the almost three-year long court battle as well as by last month’s “clean sweep” in Grenada by Keith Mitchell, Skerritt is urging supporters to “follow Grenada’s lead…not a seat for them (the UWP).’’
He exhorted supporters: “I want my revenge for the three wasted years of strain and stress” and called for “a comprehensive whipping of the UWP when the next election is held. I am serving notice from tonight,” according to a CMC report out of Roseau.
The flamboyant and crafty Skerritt would, however, be quite aware of the spreading anger being generated by the UWP over the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s dismissal of the election petitions filed against him and his cabinet and his education minister.
Skerritt has company for a election battle in the person of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, who is now on the offensive—in the face of his government’s own court battle involving electoral issues.
This past Tuesday Spencer was seeking to explain at a public
meeting of his supporters why his party should be given a third consecutive term. Pointing to what he described as “a wretched situation” first inherited in 2004 after years of mismanagement and corruption by successive governments of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP), Spencer claimed that was a period when the twin-island state had the unenviable reputation as a “rogue and bandit state.”
That was clearly a most unflattering description designed to justify replacement of the ALP, after years of rule by the veteran politician
Vere Bird and his son Lester.
Mr Spencer clearly has a hard political row to hoe. Currently he is battling a high court case, brought by the ALP, over alleged political misuse of the Electoral Boundaries Commission. For a start, it is widely known that Antigua and Barbuda is sandwiched between a distressing level of criminality and social problems, highlighted by climbing unemployment and continuing lack of economic growth as it struggles to cope under supervision of the International Monetary Fund.
Apart from these problems that simply will not disappear under the ALP’s barrage of political and personal attacks, Spencer’s United Progressive Party (UPP) is quite aware of other challenges it will have to contend with when elections are called.
Most significantly it faces lingering claims of manipulation of constituencies via pressures on the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Also, a new face has emerged as the head of the ALP. As of last November, Gastone Browne, banking executive and former minister of trade and industry, was elected leader of the ALP to succeed Lester Bird.
This by itself poses a new challenge to Spencer’s leadership. He
will have to come up with creative approaches for economic recovery and job creation, conscious as he would be, that indulging in the old politics of the Bird era may simply be a risky gamble when he rings the election bell!