KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — More than 80 thousand people are registered to vote in the general election today with both the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) confident that they will get the nod from the Vincentian electorate.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, 69, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office for a Labour government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he is “very confident” that the party would “significantly increase” the one seat margin it enjoyed in the last Parliament.
“I expect that the Unity Labour Party will win the elections at some level comfortably and overwhelmingly. The anecdotal evidence on the ground points to a big ULP victory,” he said, noting that the recent poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) pointed to a victory for his party.
“Which means we can conceivable win all seats on the mainland,” he added.
But Eustace, 70, who is seeking to prevent himself making history by failing to win four consecutive general elections here, said that his party’s internal polls shows it winning as many as 11 of the 15 seats at stake in the election.
“I am pretty confident about the results,” he said.
The two parties have been mounting impressive election rallies across the island where the CADRES poll conducted in late November found that as many as 58 per cent of the respondents said the “issues of greatest concern” to them this election are jobs, employment, the cost of living and the economy.
Eustace believes that the population has “had enough” with the ULP, adding, “… they have seen the outcome of their policies and programmes.
“In the last seven years, we have had four consecutive years of negative growth and three years of very low growth, unemployment has skyrocketed, so has crime,” he told CMC, adding, “Unemployment continues to rise and more and more people have to be supported by the state.
“I think that has pushed a number of people in our direction. I think it is fair to say, I can feel it on the ground that the public response to us is far better than it ever was and I believe that this is quite clear signal of change,” said the economist, who in October 2000 succeeded Sir James Mitchell as the leader of the NDP, and led it into defeat ever since 2001.
But Gonsalves says his administration’s performance speaks for itself and should it be returned to power today, it would continue with a number of socio-economic policies including the completion of the EC$729 million Argyle International Airport next year.
“It is not like we are in the opposition to say these are the things we will be doing during the first 100 days. That’s usually an opposition coming into office.
“We have a number of initiatives which are at various stages of advancement, opening the Argyle International Airport, building the geothermal plant, a new city at the E.T. Joshua Airport site, a new cruise ship port, … consolidating the education and health and wellness revolutions and housing,” Gonsalves told CMC.
He said his new administration would also be involved in creating jobs, rehabilitating the nation road network “because we have legacy from the Argyle airport to put into the road building programme and we have resources put aside from a number of agencies…”
The Electoral Office said that 89,527 people who are registered to vote, 11,904 registered between the period Jan. 1, 2011 and November 23, this year.
Political observers say many are first-time voters.
There are 43 candidates vying for the 15 seats. Apart from the ULP and the NDP, the other parties are the 3-year-old Democratic Republican Party led by former senator Anesia Baptiste, which is contesting six seats while there were seven candidates for the SVG Green Party, which is led by Ivan O’Neal.
The polls, which open at 7 a.m. will close at 5 p.m.
The elections are being monitored by teams from the Organization of American States, the CARICOM, and National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism.
On its arrival here, the eight-member CARIOM team, which is headed by Gasper Jn. Baptiste, chief elections officer of St. Lucia, said that it “has been engaging various groups and institutions” and also held talks with representatives of the political parties.
In the last general election, the ULP won eight seats with the remaining seven going to the NDP.