Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has for the second time in as many months signalled that the next general elections will be held ahead of the 2015 constitutional deadline.
“Comrades, when I told you to go on your marks, I wasn’t making sport you know,” Gonsalves told supporters of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) at a rally in Barrouallie Saturday night in celebration of the party’s 13th anniversary in office.
“As a country man, I know the saying that the same rope which does hang sheep is the same rope which does hang goat. And I want to say this, as a man, further, from the country, is not long rope that does hang cattle, you know; is short rope.
“And we going gi’ (give) NDP a short rope as we go between now to the next general elections,” he said.
Gonsalves, whose ULP will be seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, first hinted at early general election in February as he addressed the ULP’s annual convention, telling party supporters to get “on your marks”.
Some political observers say that the polls can come as soon as July, while others believe that it would come towards the end of 2014.
Gonsalves, 67, who during the 2010 election campaign asked voters to give him another term to mould a new generation of leaders, suggested to party supporters on Saturday that the next election will be his last as party leader.
“I am asking you to tell your children and your grandchildren, I want the young people to tell one another that they have to do this last one for the comrade.
“I will stay in North Central [Windward] where I have a house and I will represent my constituency there.”
But even as Gonsalves signalled an early poll, he also noted the internal competition in North Leeward and South Leeward, where, two candidates are vying to get the party’s nod in each of those constituencies.
In South Leeward, one of the candidates has even published an advertisement in the local newspaper proclaiming his suitability as opposed to his opponent, while another has produced a pamphlet with similar information.
Some ULP supporters believe that while the internal competition is an important part of the democratic process, it could hurt the party’s chances at the polls is allowed to continue for too long.
Sources close to the ULP have told I-Witness News that the party chose Barroullie for the anniversary celebrations because the party is losing ground there, even as a poll last October, said that the ULP, which had eight of the 15 seats in parliament, could have won a further four if elections were called then.
Barrouallie is located in Central Leeward, the only seat that the ULP won on the Leeward (western) side of mainland St. Vincent.
But Gonsalves was confident that the ULP will be able to reverse the declining popularity, in terms of popular votes, since it was first elected in 2001.
He said that the party will retain the North Windward seat and will retake North Leeward, which was lost to the New Democratic party in 2010.
Gonsalves further suggested that the ULP will win the Southern Grenadines, which has never voted Labour in the past.
And while he said it would take “a miracle” for the ULP to win the Northern Grenadines, Gonsalves added said that the rift between the NDP and its founder, former prime minister Sir James Mitchell, could cause the constituency to vote Labour.