An I-Witness News article last week triggered a streak of generosity in Sen. Julian Francis, general secretary of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), causing him to share with the nation insight into what he said were the results of a poll that he had initially said was for the party’s “internal consumption”.
After Francis’ “internal consumption” comment, the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), said there is “every indication” that the ULP “own poll shows that it is losing the general elections”, hence its refusal to release the results of its most recent polls.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), which conducted the poll for the ULP, said last week that the upcoming general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is going to be a tight race, and none of the two main political parties can be confident of victory.
“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 told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) in an interview.
“…there are good reasons why both sides could win. The political reality is that the polls are definitely showing a tight race … 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 pollster said .
When contacted on Thursday for comment on the poll, Francis confirmed to I-Witness News that the ULP had commissioned the poll, but added that the results are for “internal consumption”.
However, one day later, he cited the poll as predicting a 14-1 victory for the ULP, which holds a one-seat majority in the 15-member Parliament as it seeks a fourth consecutive term in office.
Speaking Friday in Chauncey at the re-opening of the ULP’s South Leeward campaign office, which was damaged by fire one week earlier, Francis said Labour will only lose the election if supporters stay home on election day.
“If every single supporter of Labour were to go out and vote, we winning 2001 result … And I am saying 2001 results was 12 for us, three for them and about 10,000 more votes than them.”
The ULP won the 56.6 per cent of the 51,328 accepted voters in 2001, compared to the main opposition New Democratic Party’s 45.3 per cent.
Francis said his party has done its “checking scientifically” of what is happening in the country.
“The NDP is so worried right now that every single night they have a village meeting,” he told the gathering.
“The results show that the Unity Labour Party today is stronger today than it was in the election of 2010. Not only that … that the two Kingstown seats are open to any political party,” he said, even as he noted that the NDP’s Daniel Cummings won West Kingstown in 2010 by over 500 votes and the NDP’s St. Clair Leacock won Central Kingstown by 382 votes.
“The Unity Labour Party, according to the polls, stands a fighting chance to win back them two seats dey,” Francis said.
He further cited the polls as showing that the ULP will retain the eight seats it holds in Parliament.
“Eight seats is government. That means NDP can’t form government,” he said, adding that the ULP is working to win North and South Leeward.
“That’s 10. The polls … tell us that Kingstown is open and the Unity Labour Party stands a fighting chance in winning two of the Kingstown seats … The minimum I am expecting in this election is the 2005 results — 12 for Labour, three for NDP,” Francis said.
The ULP retained government in 2005 with the same 12-3 majority, but 1.1 percentage points fewer votes.
“But the way it looking, it looking better than that still, but I ain’t going beyond that. Because Edwin Snagg … say he got one for we. And I always joke with him. I say, ‘Comrade, it’s time for you to bring the pork home.’ And he has assured me …, he say, ‘General Secretary, I giving you Southern Grenadines this time. How much that reaches? All yo’ stop count? Thirteen-two,” Francis said.
He further told party supporters that the polls say that in every constituency in St. Vincent, Gonsalves is more popular than NDP president, Opposition Leader Eustace, including East Kingstown.
“So even in Arnhim’s constituency, Ralph Gonsalves has a better rating in East Kingstown than Arnhim Eustace as the man people want to be prime minister of this country,” Francis said.
“Where we reach dey? Alyo still adding? Fourteen! Me ain’t going as far as 15. What I want to tell you all tonight is that Labour will win this election, and we will have four inna row,” he said, but warned party supporters against complacency.
“I don’t want us to sit down and say arwe done win government and yo’ nah gwine do nothing. All of you in South Leeward, please, get out of your house and wuk with Jomo. And, in every single constituency, the election is not won until the election is won.”
But NDP spokesperson, Sen. Vynnette Frederick, said in a press statement and on the campaign trail on the weekend that the ULP’s own findings show “that the people are fed up with 14 years of the Ralph Gonsalves administration, and they are ready to opt for the policy platform of the NDP”.
“It is significant that Wickham could not say that the ULP could win the election, even though he has conducted the polling for them and has the findings,” Frederick, who is also a Senator, noted. “We know if the findings had shown that the ULP was winning, they were going to be quick to release it,” Frederick said in a press statement.
Speaking at an NDP campaign rally in Murray’s Village on Saturday, Frederick said: “Today, when you listen to the ground, and you listen to the people and you listen to Peter Wickham in the papers, you could imagine we in an 8-7 situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the last five years …, the Prime Minister thump up his chest earlier this year… and say they sweeping all the seats but the reality is not that things tight, which is the best that Wickham coulda say.
“Wickham say the safest thing to say, when yo’ ain’t have nothing good to say is to make it look like things close.”
Frederick further said the fact that Wickham said the client does not want the result of the poll released is important.
“Even Julian say hear nuh, the poll results are for internal consumption. So the licks that they forecast — their own forecasts tell them that they getting blows yo’ know. Their own forecast telling them that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are ready to vote and ready to vote to change this government and to give the New Democratic Party the mandate to govern and to rescue St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” she said.
I-Witness News was reliably informed that there are efforts afoot to secure media interviews regarding the polls, in what has been described as an attempt at “damage control”.