The upcoming general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is going to be a tight race, and none of the two main political party can be confident of victory, the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) says.
On Wednesday, Regional pollster Peter Wickham of CADRES, gave the Caribbean Media Corporation insight into the polls, the results of which he said the client doesn’t want to make public.
“I guess you can say this is an open secret. There are series of polls we have done in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Unfortunately, the client there is not comfortable with us releasing the findings of the polls,” Wickham said.
“But I can tell you in a general sense that the elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is gonna be tight, for several reasons.”
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party (ULP) will seek a fourth consecutive term in office, has said he will allow Vincentians to vote before year-end, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.
Speaking in Barrouallie Sunday night, Gonsalves further suggested that the elections will be called on or before Dec. 13, five years since the last general elections.
The elections are expected to be a straight race between the ULP and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), over which the ULP holds a one-seat majority in the 15-member Parliament.
Pundits say the SVG Green Party and the Democratic Republican Party are not expected to have any impact on the outcome of the elections.
Wickham said the election will be tight because the government is seeking a fourth consecutive term.
“You are looking at a government that is now facing a fourth term.”
“The other reality is that you have an opposition that has been fighting to win government for three terms, and essentially, you are looking at an opposition leader [where] this will be his fourth try at becoming prime minister,” Wickham said.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace inherited the prime membership for the six months leading up to the March 2001 general election, which the NDP lost 12 seats to the ULP’s three.
Before the election, the NDP, which was into a fourth consecutive term, held a single seat majority in the Parliament and agreed to early elections because of political unrest.
“So there are good reasons why both sides could win. The political reality is that the polls are definitely showing a tight race,” Wickham said.
“I can tell you that the popularity of the current prime minister exceeds the popularity of the Leader of the Opposition, which is a common feature of polls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He further said that the country has several small constituencies “in which you can have a narrower victory and then you can have an increased number of seats — that is entirely possible.
“But, at the same time, I am more comfortable with the expression that it will be a tight election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it will be one that we across the region will closely watch.”
The NDP wrestled two of the three Kingstown seats from the ULP in 2010 to take control the Kingstown district, where it previously held one seat — East Kingstown, which Eustace has been representing since 1998.
“The race within constituencies, especially Central Kingstown, within Kingstown generally, I believe there are opportunities there for the government to recapture ground, but at the same time, the races are going to be tight.
“I don’t think it is going to be an election that either party is going to run away with this huge sense of confidence. It’s definitely going to be a battle,” Wickham said.
A section of the Vincentian electorate has been speaking about change and even the ULP has acknowledged this, saying during its campaign that it represents that change.
“Certainly, when you ask people about change, there is an interest in change. When you ask people in the same breath, ‘Would you be voting for change?’ there seems to be an equal disinterest in voting for change,” Wickham said.
“So, yes, there is a mood of change. I think there must be. After three terms, you will always see a mood of change.
“The question is, is it something people are going to vote for. I think that is the real question that the election will have to answer,” he said.
“The mood of change is one thing, but what I have found certainly in work across the region, in many instances, we find the mood of change but what we find, people are not willing to vote for change, for any number of reasons. You may not vote for change because you like the current government more and you may not vote for change because you like the opposition less. These are the kinds of factors that are being taken into consideration.”
Wickham also spoke of the EC$729 million international airport under construction at Argyle, which has missed completion deadline annually, and which Gonsalves hinted Sunday night might not be completed by year-end, as his government had promised.
Wickham said it is well known that the government supports the project, which the opposition has opposed.
“There are suggestions that this is essentially ushering in a new era of change. It is entirely possible that Vincentians may want to vote for that, or alternatively, Vincentians may want to vote against it. So the whole question of change, in the way in which it is presented is going to be one of great fascination in terms of the St. Vincent election,” Wickham said.
General secretary of the ULP, Sen. Julian Francis told I-Witness News on Thursday that his party has been “in constant polling”, adding that CADRES conducts all of the party’s polls.
Asked if he was in a position to comment on the findings of the most recent polls, Francis said, “That’s for internal consumption.”