The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has identified four candidates that it will replace ahead of the next general elections, with candidate selection in one of those constituencies expected to take place as early as this week.
“…we have candidate replacements in North Windward, North Central Windward, South Central Windward, East St. George, and there may be a fifth but there is some uncertainty,” NDP vice-president and MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock told iWitness News on Monday.
He said NDP president and Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, is addressing that candidate replacement process and “all party groups are readying themselves to ensure that they are in place for any eventuality.
“In fact, I think we are having selection in South Central Windward, where Israel Bruce is putting himself up against Sean Rose, who is in the BVI,” Leacock said.
Bruce, a lawyer and former NDP public relations officer, and Rose, a communications professional based in the British Virgin Island, are vying to replace Addison “Bash” Thomas, a former teacher who has failed twice to unseat the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) Saboto Caesar.
Caesar, a lawyer, who is also Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation, defeated Thomas in the 2010 and 2015 general elections. In the last outing, Caesar secured 2,476 votes compared to Thomas’ 1,888 while the Green Party’s Kenneth Horne got four votes.
Caesar had widely been seen as a replacement for ULP leader Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. However, Caesar seems to have resigned himself to the strong possibility that Gonsalves will be replaced by his son, Camillo Gonsalves, who, like his father, is a lawyer.
The younger Gonsalves, a former ambassador to the United Nations, has outshone Caesar since entering politics as a senator in 2013 before being elected as MP for East St. George in December and appointed Minister of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Information and Labour.
In East St. George, the younger Gonsalves defeated NDP chairman, Linton Lewis, a lawyer and former senator, whose performance in the December poll made it the fourth time he was being defeated in the St. Georges constituencies.
Lewis, who is also an accountant, lost once in West St. George before contesting in East St. George, where he lost twice to former minister of education and health, Clayton Burgin, before his trouncing at the hands of Camillo.
In the December vote, Lewis secured 2,528 votes while Camillo amassed 3,135, compared to 13 for the Green Party’s Kadmiel McFee and 35 for the Democratic Republican Party’s (DRP) Calvert Baptiste.
The NDP’s candidate in North Central Windward during the last two polls has been former educator, Kenroy Johnson, who has performed very poorly against Prime Minister Gonsalves.
In the 2010 elections, Johnson got 746 votes, compared to Gonsalves’ 3,015 while Haran Grant of the DRP got 17 votes.
In North Windward, the NDP’s Lauron Baptiste seems to have lost interest in politics after just one outing at the polls.
Baptiste lost to the ULP’s Montgomery Daniel, who amassed 2,713 to Baptiste’s 2,390 to secure a fourth consecutive term in office.
The DRP’s George Byron got 15 votes, while five went to the Green party’s Christian Waldron.
Sources say that Baptiste had been tipped to be appointed a senator by Eustace before being dropped for Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell, after a section of the party lobbied for the NDP’s inclusion of a woman in Parliament.
With Bruce and Rose the only two persons identified to contest the primary in South Central Windward, Barnwell’s future in politics, in terms of becoming an elected MP is uncertain.
But some political observers say she could replace Eustace in East Kingstown, which he has been representing since 1998.
Observers say that an endorsement by Eustace could lead to an easy victory in East Kingstown for Barnwell, notwithstanding the ULP’s Luke Browne’s apparent erosion of Eustace’s support during the last election, when Browne bucked a trend in which Eustace’s support had increased with each election since he was first elected in 1998.
The NDP is focusing on candidate replacement as it says it expects early elections as a result of an appeal of two election petitions it has filed challenging the results of the December 2015 poll.
Leacock said those appeals could be heard this month, and expressed hope that the outcome will result in fresh elections in Central Leeward and North Windward, or general elections.
“Mr Eustace is busying himself now with the candidates for elections,” Leacock said, noting that the NDP did not do well in the eastern corridor of the country in the Dec. 9, 2015 general election