Friday, February 23, 2018

Focus on three coming elections

INSTEAD of possibly two changes in government shortly within the 15-member Caribbean Community, as originally assessed, there could now well be a third later in the year.

Changes forecast, and based on public opinion polls, point to expected termination of current first-term administrations by two first-time Prime Ministers — in Barbados and Grenada, respectively.

Currently also, amid growing political challenges for Prime Minister Denzil Douglas' governing St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP)—largely based on a mix of deepening economic misfortunes and, more worryingly, internal divisions in his party and cabinet, there are spreading speculations of a likely snap poll late this year that could result in a change in government in Basseterre.

While much attention is being focused on naming of the date for a new constitutionally due general election in Barbados that could be announced either tomorrow or on Tuesday, the governing and opposition parties in Grenada are battling it out on the campaign trail for the coming February 19 parliamentary poll.

Against the background of heavy criticisms during last year of both the governments in St George's and Bridgetown for not announcing arrangements for fresh parliamentary elections, Grenada's Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, did so recently by naming February 19 when voters will trek to the polls to choose representatives for the 15-member House of Representatives.

In Barbados, however, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart seems to delight in frustrating expectations of the opposition Barbados Labour Party of former three-term Prime Minister Owen Arthur over announcing the voting date for new election for the 30-member House of Assembly.

Such an announcement was expected long before the expiry this year of the fifth anniversary of the last general election on January 15, 2008. But it never came.

Instead, with the passing of that date, and while Arthur was bitterly complaining of the sudden withdrawal of police permission for an earlier approved permission for his BLP to hold a public rally in Parliament Square in Bridgetown last Wednesday night, Prime Minister Stuart was jeering at a DLP election constituency event that he did not know "what's all the fuss is about...fixing the election date is my call…"

While the Prime Minister is standing on secured constitution ground that allows new parliamentary election to take place within three months from the last such event, he and his DLP have undoubtedly been pushed on the political back foot by some fierce BLP campaigning to name a date ahead of the January 15 fifth anniversary of the 2008 poll.

The latest such strategy by the BLP was to start a boycott of sittings of the House of Assembly from last Tuesday. Following tomorrow's annual celebration on July 21 of 'Errol Barrow Day Tuesday that commemorates the sterling contributions of the late Prime Minister and 'Father of Independence', it could well be a day or two later for announcement of the voting date for Barbadians. At the 2008 general election the DLP won a landslide 20-10 victory.

Two public opinion polls last year have forecast a return to government of the BLP. A similar development has been predicted to occur in Grenada with the defeat of Prime Minister Thomas' incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Also a political rupture in the ranks of Prime Minister Douglas' government in Basseterre, points to the inevitability of a snap poll in that Leeward Island state.

The incumbent SKLP is governing with a slender one-seat majority in St Kitts but with coalition support of parliamentarians elected in the sister isle Nevis, the recurring public disagreements between Prime Minister Douglas and two senior ministerial colleagues-Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, and Dr Timothy Harris-spell serious survival challenges ahead.

Consequently, monitors of the political developments in the twin-island state feel that it's a matter of time before Prime Minister Douglas may feel compelled to announce plans  for a snap general election. We shall see.