By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Oct. 16, 2020)
With less than three weeks before the next elections, we offer an analysis of the candidates, their contribution to the national discourse, their training, ability and chances in the Nov. 5 poll.
We offer the battleground constituencies first because any early indication of how they are going may be a predictor of the elections results.
A rematch of 2015 between the rabble-rousing Patel Matthews, who narrowly retained the seat by a mere 12 votes, and Carlos James, former Speaker of the House. Many observers wondered why the opposition went with Matthews who barely eked out a victory in 2015. However, based on James’ non-spectacular contribution in the House of Assembly and the ULP abject neglect of the constituency until recently, Matthews could win, but history is not with him. It will be remembered that Matthews chipped away at Jerrol Thompson’s numbers until he toppled him to win by 182 votes in 2010. NL history shows that once the challenger narrows the incumbent’s margin of victory, eventually the constituency changes party allegiance.
Unless James, a lawyer, radically remakes his pompous attitude, SVG will be poorly served if he wins. Should he win and maintains his haughty, arrogant attitude, he will first embarrass himself and more importantly, our country. The party best able to get out the vote wins.
Watch this seat as though either party’s fortune depends on it because it does. Dr. Orando Brewster takes up from where Sir Louis Straker, the retiring Deputy Prime Minister left off. Sir Louis first won in 1994 and chalked up four impressive victories before going into retirement in 2010. Maxwell Charles won the seat in 2010 by a narrow 150 votes. Sir Louis was astutely dragged out of retirement for the 2015 polls and won by 314 votes.
Ben Exeter and the opposition are convinced that they were robbed out the seat and the reins of government in 2015. They will be going full force to claim the victory this time. To his credit, Exeter who lived in Canada has remained on the ground. Brewster is no Sir Louis, and the party is going for an unprecedented fifth term. The get-out-the vote campaign will be most crucial in Central Leeward. Too close to call.
Arguably, South Leeward is the most neglected constituency in the country. Therefore, Dr. Minerva Glasgow has a difficult task on her hand despite the last-minute mad rush by the ULP to address some of the most pressing needs. Dr. Glasgow is neither nimble nor exciting in speech, gait, or persona. Her below-par performances to date do not augur well for someone who touts a PhD in her arsenal. Before her emergence, one would have had to have a creative imagination to believe that anyone could have been drabber than the incumbent, Nigel Stephenson. But the seat was won by Mr Stephenson by only 118 votes in 2015. The opposition will make a mistake if it does not do all in its power to retain this seat against a final desperate pitch from the ULP. NDP has the edge.
The NDP has held this seat since 1984 first by Eddie Griffith, Carlyle Dougan and then former opposition leader Arnhim Eustace. The party’s fortunes have seesawed from 26 votes in 2001 to a high of 467 in 2010, only to be narrowed to 145 votes by Luke Browne, the Rhodes scholar, in the 2015 general elections.
Browne cannot afford a third consecutive defeat and is desperate to win. It will not be as easy as the uninformed thinks.
His impediments to victory are many. Among them are the following: his party is going for an unprecedented fifth term, he was saddled with the difficult damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t health ministry. We approach the elections with a dengue fever outbreak that has already taken six lives. Government has been slammed for what some regard as its inept response to the outbreak. Add to these woes the fact that some in the ULP leadership may not want him to win.
Theo Browne, Luke’s father, has tipped him to become a future prime minister. Sadly, Gonsalves has already groomed and handpicked his son, Camillo, as his replacement. Luke’s brother-in-law Saboto, South Central Windward MP, Saboto Caesar has already given way to the crowned prince, but Luke may not be that compliant.
Additionally, Luke comes up against a 36-year history of NDP dominance in the constituency and a younger, more vigorous opponent, Fitz Bramble, former diplomat, teacher, national footballer and economist. Bramble has had a constant presence in the villages since his return in July. Although the ULP is hell-bent on exploiting his ill-conceived call for a toll at Sion Hill, it’s anyone’s guess if he will pay for his mouth. Remember, Daniel Cummings, who proudly stoned a church, is a two-term incumbent and a virtual shoo-in for a third term.
Don’t count out Luke though. He knows the forces arrayed against him and is determined to emerge as the king of the hill. Too close to call.
The veteran Montgomery Daniel, former agriculture and housing minister, is committed to winning again, but his challenger is intent on making the task difficult. Daniel is not as impregnable as he or his party may want us to believe. Had there not been a change in the constituency boundaries in 2010, Daniel may have been retired already. Even with the addition Labour supporters, he won by 250 votes in 2010 and 320 in 2015.
The 2015 elections came after the Rock Gutter disaster where several children lost their lives after a mini plunged into the sea. Gonsalves spent weeks in the area spending lavishly and Daniel, as keeper of the Housing Ministry, made good use of lumber, cement and galvanize. All of that for a 70-vote increase.
This time around he comes up against the young, energetic and confident teacher Shevern John. Plain Talk has always warned against rent a crowd politics. However, if the turnout and enthusiasm displayed at Ms John’s constituency lime at Langley Park last Friday is any indication of her popularity, and if that popularity is replicated across the constituency, the “Proud Carib” may have a fight on his hand.
On Nov. 5, 2020, some will mourn while others will shed tears of joy. We will soon know for whom the bell tolls.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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