Political Leader of the Ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says the party hopes to have all its candidate for the next general elections selected by the time it holds its annual convention in April.
General elections must be held by March 28, 2016, but Gonsalves has noted that Vincentian are expecting to go to the poll before the end of 2015.
The main opposition New Democratic Party announced its full slate of candidates several months ago.
Asked at a press conference this week how soon his party hopes to complete its candidate selection, Gonsalves said:
“… it has to be confirmed by the central executive, but sometime around the middle of April, we are having our convention and I feel pretty sure that will have everybody in place by then.”
He, however, pointed out that this a flexible timeline that can be adjusted.
“… if I am advised otherwise, through inspiration, that matters should be brought forward, they will be brought forward with alacrity,” he said.
The ULP captured eight of the 15 seats in the December 2010 general elections to secure a historic third consecutive term for a Labour government.
The ULP is yet to announce its candidate for West Kingstown, Central Kingstown, Marriaqua, Northern Grenadines, and Southern Grenadines.
NDP Vice-President St. Clair Leacock won Central Kingstown in 2010.
Businessman Beresford Phillips is tipped to become the candidate in that constituency, replacing former teacher Elvis Charles, who Leacock defeated in 2010.
But Phillips, who was in January removed as chair of the state-owned Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC), has been criticised for his handling of the government’s housing programme.
Houses at Green Hill being constructed by the HLDC are yet to be delivered to hopeful homeowners, more than half year behind schedule.
Further, one of the houses at Clare Valley has collapsed because of poor construction and the soil type, and another house there, which was at risk of collapsing, is scheduled to be demolished.
Gonsalves, speaking to the media this week, said that Phillips’ removal as chair of the HLDC is in keeping with his government’s policy of not having election candidates or potential candidates chair the boards of state-owned entities.
“I just want to say this: Beresford Phillips has been a very energetic chairman, but in this year, where between now and March next year we have to have a general elections, … I don’t allow anybody to be chairman of a state enterprise who is a sitting Member of Parliament or somebody who is a candidate or is likely to be candidate, because I don’t want that institution to be in any way sullied by any perception of any political bias, interference or anything of the sort,” he said.
Former national security minister, Sir Vincent Beache, has replaced Phillips as chair of the HLDC.
In West Kingstown, the fight to represent the ULP is said to be between lawyer and former Miss SVG Michelle Fife, who was defeated by the NDP’s Daniel Cummings in 2010, and teacher Deborah Charles of Lowmans.
Charles is the sister-in-law of Central Leeward Representative, Maxwell Charles.
Fife’s prospective candidacy has been met with some resistance from some ULP supporters, one of whom, requesting anonymity, told I-Witness News in April 2013 that constituents were trying to collect 1,000 signatures to force the ULP leadership to acknowledge that they never wanted Fife as their candidate.
Recently, Sean Frederick, an outspoken ULP activist in West Kingstown, expressed confidence that Fife will not emerge as the candidate, and, in a post on Facebook, endorsed Charles to carry the party’s banner.
“I am very confident that Ms. Fife will not be selected to represent the Unity Labour Party in the upcoming General Election, but declare here, that I have nothing personal against Ms. Fife; to me she is young and bright, full of ideas, but needs to work on her personality and leadership skills. I believe any candidate should possess the skills of a true leader and willingness to work with people to help develop and build our community, and that’s why I have thrown my 100% support behind Mrs. Deborah Charles of Lowmans to represent West Kingstown,” Frederick wrote.
In June 2014, Gonsalves confirmed to reporters that he had spoken to Roxanne A. Israel, Miss Carival 1987, about a possible ULP candidacy in West Kingstown.
However, Israel’s name is no longer among those party supporters speak of publicly as potential candidates.
The ULP is also yet to announce it candidate for Marriaqua, which is currently represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel since 1998.
Gonsalves had said that Miguel would like to opt out of electoral politics at the end of the current terms.
The names of teacher Godson Cain, accountant Kirk Da Silva and retiring Director of the Agency for Public Information, Jimmy Prince have surfaced as potential candidates for the ULP in Marriaqua.
Persons using pennames and at least one of the prospective candidates have taken to the media, writing articles expressing their views on the respective potential candidates.
Observers say, however, that Miguel is likely to carry the ULP’s banner again in that constituency.
Herman Belmar represented ULP in the Northern Grenadines and Edwin Snagg carried the standard in the Southern Grenadines. Both men lost to the incumbents, Godwin Friday and Terrance Ollivierre of the NDP.
It is not yet clear to I-Witness News if Belmar and Snagg will be the candidates again in those two constituencies, two NDP strongholds.