KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent: – This country will switch to election mode in September as the government tries to secure the two-third majority needed for the proposed Constitution to pass when it goes to a referendum in November.
“… [Y]ou are going to see a spirited campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote as you would see for any election,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told I Witness-News.
Vincentians will vote in a referendum to adopt a new Constitution to replace the one that that came into effect when the country gained independence from Britain 30 years ago this October.
The documents, which has been tabled after six years of consultations with Vincentians at home and in the diaspora, has generated much discussion here.
The opposition New Democratic Party which initially supported the exercise, has an ongoing radio campaign for a “No” vote, saying, among other things, that the proposed Constitution does not limit the powers of the prime minister.
The central government will finance the campaign because it relates to state policy Dr. Gonsalves said.
He said that he expected that his Unity Labour Party (ULP) would stage rallies but said he would not go to his supporters “in any partisan way”.
“I would want to do the bulk of the campaign in a manner where I can speak on a platform with people who do not belong to the ULP, to show people this is not about the ULP.”
Dr. Gonsalves said that he was comfortable that the referendum would pass because of the efforts of the Constitutional Reform Committee and “the work in Parliament”.
“We have turned this country into a school of advanced political and constitutional studies,” he said even as he acknowledged a call for a postponement of the vote by those who say that others do not understand the proposed document.
“Of course there are people who do not understand … but later, people [will] know the basic issues. They know that this constitution, especially the young people, will provide for better governance.”
The Prime Minister entertained the possibility that the referendum might fail to garner the 62 percent “yes” votes need to enact the proposed constitution.
He said that in such a situation, the country would continue with the existing constitution, noting that the Referendum Bill will provide for another vote sometime in the future.
“It is not that one referendum puts a bar on the issue for all times. But, really, if this current government, this generation of leaders don’t succeed with it, I don’t see where the impulse is going to come from.”