KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The government and opposition have called on their supporters to assemble outside parliament on Thursday to support and protest the government’s move to increase the number of constituencies from 15 to 17.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said there is “justification” for the increase even as the opposition New Democratic Party said Vincentians rejected the proposal when they voted against the new constitution last November.
But Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) has the two-third majority needed to increase the number of constituencies and he said on radio on Tuesday that parliament will do just that.
“The opposition is saying that people voted on this issue in the referendum. People did not vote on this in the referendum. People voted on a constitution. They rejected the new constitution,” Gonsalves said.
He said the last increase was in 1986 and that SVG has fewer constituencies than St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda, all of which have smaller populations.
Gonsalves said there was a strong case for two additional constituencies in St. Vincent, saying there is a big disparity between the size of constituencies there and the sister islands of The Grenadines.
He said there are 4,000 persons live in the Northern Grenadines and bout 1000 less in the southern Grenadines. The votes he got in two communities in his constituency are more than both candidates got in the Southern Grenadines, he said.
Gonsalves said there were about 8,500 voters in East St. George with a similar number in South Leeward, with the neighbouring constituencies also heavily populated.
“So, it is not a case of shaving off piece of South Leeward or shaving off piece of East St. George. What you have to put on the agenda is two more seats,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that it was the longest period since SVG had seen an increase in parliamentary seats, the country having increased its constituencies in 1951, 1966, 1974, and 1986.
“And the NDP want to make an issue of this. I say to them ‘Go and make it. The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are reasonable people.’
“This is not a case of any gerrymandering. There is a Boundaries Commission… I want the people, and especially the ULP people, but the people as a whole, to appreciate the reasonableness of the manner in which we are proceeding with this matter.”
General elections in SVG are widely expected this year and the NDP had suggested that the government is increasing the size of parliament in an attempt to hold on to the reins of power.
However, the Boundaries Commission comprising a representative of the governor general, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition will decide where the new constituencies should be.