By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk”, July 3, 2020)
The 2020 elections are rapidly approaching. Gonsalves loves December elections. We offer 2005, 2010 and 2015 election cycles as proof. He repeatedly said the elections will be called before year-end. Constitutionally due March 2021, Vincentians can expect to go to the polls later this year.
Last Saturday we made the following post:
“The 2020 elections in SVG is too early to call as opposed to too close to call. If you are a betting man, the best you can safely say is ULP 6, NDP 4. Don’t assume that either side will easily get the coveted 8 victories necessary to form the next government.”
Supporters from both sides of the political divide jumped on the post. We were called crazy, unscientific and worse. One leading official of the ruling party said the post was intended to offer support to the NDP, but it was too late. Other ULP supporters with an inside track posted numbers from a poll and declared that the ULP will do even better this time than in 2015. Opposition supporters quarrelled. Many said our forecast had to be wrong because Vincentians were so fed up with the governing party that this time there must be a change.
Some said ULP has cheated since 2005 so expect them to cheat again.
We maintain that as of July 1, 2020, the elections are too early to call. Plain Talk did not say too close to call. Too early to call simply means that much can happen between now and elections day.
Unless there is a massive swing away from the ULP, PM Gonsalves, Saboto Caesar, Frederick “Gustaus” Stephenson, Jimmy Prince and Camillo Gonsalves will retain their seats. The safe bet is that newcomer, teacher/historian, Curtis King so well rooted in West St. George, will beat back a spirited and energetic challenge from Kay Bacchus Baptiste.
Dr. Godwin Friday and Terrance Ollivierre hold the Grenadines seats, while Major Leacock and Daniel Cummings will get third terms in Central Kingstown and West Kingstown.
There are 5 seats in play at this juncture. The Leeward constituencies which are currently held by Roland “Patel” Mathews, the retiring Sir Louis Straker and Nigel Stevenson.
In 2015, the ULP narrowly lost North Leeward, and Carlos James must now fancy his chances. However, the ULP having lost by a mere 12 votes may have hurt its chances by back-loading much of what it had to do for the year before the elections. The coronavirus slowed ULP’s attempt to finish projects and win favours. There is a mad rush to repair the roads, rebuild the bridges and the wharf at Chateaubelair. With high unemployment and growing hopelessness, James, aloof and pompous, will not easily remove the rabble-rousing Mathews.
The two contests to watch with hawk’s eyes are those in East Kingstown and Central Leeward. Luke Browne is a formidable challenger. Contesting against the leader of the opposition in 2015, he shaved more than 300 votes off Eustace’s 2010 victory margin, to lose by less than 150. He’s youthful, aggressively determined and overly committed to winning. His father has long labelled him a future Prime Minister. His ambition to lead may prove his undoing.
Browne will face Dwight “Fitz” Bramble who replaces Arnhim Eustace. Bramble, younger, a former national footballer and diplomat, carries an expectation burden. NDP has held the seat since 1984. Bramble may not lose any of the support the former Opposition leader held. However, he must get to East Kingstown as soon as the airlines start flying. A delay increases problems in the constituency for NDP.
Orondi Brewster, a medical doctor stands in for Sir Louis Straker who ensured that Central Leeward stayed in the ULP column since 1994. Brewster possesses a strong, booming voice. Whether his youth offers a connectivity that allows him to build on the ULP’s 2015 314-vote margin, is to be seen. He will be strongly tested by Ben Exeter. Exeter’s candidacy, underrated in 2015, sent the ULP leadership into a tizzy last election night.
Exeter’s legal challenge of Sir Louis’s election remains unresolved. The entire NDP leadership and its supporters remain convinced they were cheated out of a seat and the chance to topple the ULP. To his credit, Exeter, who resided in Canada for decades, remained grounded and continued to work with voters. The ULP will not underestimate his chances this time, while Exeter will be revving for the victory he is convinced was stolen from him in 2015. Only the politically naïve will count him out.
South Leeward is a seat that the ULP should have easily won last time. Its leadership sacrificed it in a political gambit that almost cost the party the elections. Nigel Stevenson, the two-time incumbent is a lacklustre candidate, but the NDP election machine in South Leeward is stellar. It took the party home in 2015 and could again this time around.
The ULP offers Dr. Minerva Glasgow, a life-long NDP supporter. Dr Glasgow, an accomplished executive, is an unexciting, dour retiree who will be hard-pressed to enthuse the voters. Worst, the ULP did precious little in the last 10 years to endear itself to South Leeward voters. The most neglected constituency in the country, it’s anyone’s guess whether the current efforts to get some things done will not amount to too little too late. South Leeward is a marginal seat and the ULP could surprise.
Montgomery Daniel vies for a 5-consecutive victory in North Windward. Reports are that he will be challenged by a female teacher. He won by 320 votes in 2015, an increase of a mere 70 votes after the ULP spent heavily following the Rock Gutter disaster that took the lives of several young people. Daniel, as Housing Minister, was also in control of the government’s lumber, cement and galvanize giveaway bonanza.
Yet an 8 to 7 result compelled Gonsalves to pleasurably declare, “A win is a win.”
In politics, a lot can change in a short space of time. All politics is local. ULP is going for a 5th term. Many are neglected, turned off or simply not impressed. This reality explains Gonsalves’ nervousness as reflected in his overbearing, daily attempts to saturate the news media with his voice.
Because postcolonial SVG is not post-colonial, the light-skinned Friday will be his biggest threat to the continued domination of local politics. Whoever triggers the imagination of the populace will win. We await the day of decision.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].