Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at his swearing-in ceremony on Saturday. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

With his Unity Labour Party (ULP) having lost the popular vote in last Thursday’s general elections — for the first time since 1998 — Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is noting that it is the party with the most seats, and not the most votes that form the government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

His position now, is a reversal of that in 1998, when the New Democratic Party (NDP) was returned to office for a fourth consecutive term, having won 8-7 against the ULP.

Back then, the ULP won the popular vote, garnering some 7,000 more ballots than the NDP.

And, in a July 3, 1998 commentary in The News newspaper, Gonsalves, then deputy leader of the ULP, cited the assertion by his political leader, Vincent Beache

Beache had argued that the NDP, notwithstanding its one-seat majority in the first-past-the-post system, did “not have the consent of the governed since it received only 45% of the popular vote as against 55% for the ULP”.

In his own comments, Gonsalves said:

“All reasonable persons of democratic temper and spirit recognise that a truly functioning democracy demands that consent of the governed, that is, the consent of real flesh-and-blood voters be obtained. Fifty-five percent of the voters have stated unequivocally that they do not want to be ruled by the NDP. The NDP’s slender one-seat majority may, in a narrow legal sense, be legal but it lacks popular legitimacy and moral authority.”

Gonsalves went on to quote Beache, who had said:

“A government which does not possess legitimacy and moral authority cannot be effective nor fashioned and sustained by consensus… Without the consent of the governed, the NDP will only be able to rule through coercion, threats, bribes, victimisation, fear, deception, and farcical manipulation of the country’s democratic institutions. Anyone who does not see all this is either devoid of balanced judgement or blinded by fear and/or partisan politics.”

The final results of Thursday’s election, released by the Electoral Office on Tuesday  show that the ULP won nine of the 15 seats, with the remaining six going to the main opposition New Democratic Party.

Supervisor of Elections, Dora James told iWitness News on Tuesday that she did not know when the final figures from the polls would be available.

However, the preliminary numbers show that the NDP garnered 32,829 votes compared to 32,529 for the ULP.

And, speaking at his swearing in last Saturday, Gonsalves appeared to be emphasising the size of the NDP’s majority vote rather than the principle he espoused in 1998.

“Now, it is true that there is a half or so percentage point difference between the political parties but it has to be equally recognised that there is widespread dispersion, scatter, dispersion of one segment of support as distinct from where support is over a larger expanse of territory,” said Gonsalves, who dubbed himself the “political world boss” and “five star general” during the election campaign,

Gonsalves, a lawyer, said it has also has to be recognised, “more than anything else, that there are 15 individual elections in something which we call general elections”.

He said that this is why the governor-general directed the supervisor of election in respect of writs for 15 individual constituencies.

“We have a constituency-based democracy and the founding fathers in our constitution so conceived it and thought that that is the best way to have stable government,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that there is the strict proportional representation model, adding that an extreme case is Israel, “where there is a confusion on an on-going basis after there is an election and there is several months’ hiatus where people are seeking to cobble together a government”.

The prime minister noted the 2009 constitution, which, among other things, offered a model that included a mixture of the proportional representation and first-past-the-post systems.

“It will be recalled that we campaigned very strongly for this in the referendum and the opposition rejected it so that they have no moral authority or political authority to address the question of a proportional representational system as preferable to a first-past-the-post,” Gonsalves said.

He added:

Because we had seven years of debate on that and the people spoke and the people said by rejecting our proposal, including that that they would like the first-past-the-post system to remain with 15 independent elections taking place on the same day.

“And that is what has just happened, so that I would like, as I put my hand out in friendship that it be known that it doesn’t mean that by putting my hand out in friendship that I must bury my head in the sand about many fundamental truths about this amazing democracy which we have and which has just produced the result it has produced.”

10 replies on “Having lost the popular vote, Gonsalves sings a different tune”

  1. Eat back your words, why don’t you! They have come back to bite. So what does it say that Carlos won by one vote. The majority is the majority dude. We know it does not change the price of eggs, first past the post is the rule but stop trying to rationalize the fact that YOU LOST THE POPULAR VOTE.

  2. Elections should be free and fair and free from bribes. The whole thing should be independant under the leadership of the governor general.

  3. Nathan 'Jolly' Green says:

    If you suddenly believe in constitutional rules “We have a constituency-based democracy and the founding fathers in our constitution so conceived it and thought that that is the best way to have stable government” why have you made a person Deputy Prime Minister which unconstitutional.

    Under the terms of the 1979 Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, it is not Constitutional and therefore not legal to select, appoint, any person and swear them in as a Deputy Prime Minister. There is no such provision in the Constitution; the ULP Government has no right to present a person to be Deputy Prime Minister as they have done by asking the Governor-General swear in North Windward member of Parliament Montgomery Daniel.

    The Constitution only allows for three Deputy positions, Deputy to Governor-General, Deputy Speaker, and Deputy Commissioner of Police.

    If there were any intention by the draftsmen of the 1979 Constitution to include such a position and title in the Constitution, they would have made provision within the Constitution Deed for the position of Deputy Prime Minister. There is no provision for such a role. If a Deputy Prime Minister were required the political masters at the time would have insisted that the position of Deputy Prime Minister be included in the Constitution, they did not. In fact, by excluding it compounds the reasoning that they deliberately did not want to have such a position or office.

    http://www.oas.org/juridico/PDFs/mesicic4_svg_const.pdf

  4. Please stop trying to deceive the supporters. The opposition’s vote went down on the mainland compared to last election and they lost the popular vote on the mainland. You can’t include the Grenadines in the calculation because it is an outlier.
    This is a professional analysis

    1. You must be foolish. Norther and South Grenadines are not outliers, they are a part of the state. Since this is your presented case, let us leave out North Central Windward as an “outlier” also.

  5. You all go on and run the government and try to make the best of it. Its a small country that need a lot of help and cooperation from both sides.

  6. Soterpy Douglas says:

    He tried to change the system, but voters in the referendum wanted things to remain as they were, so why blame Ralph for the flawed democracy that was perpetuated and has now again resulted?

  7. What is good for the goose, is also good for the gander!! Now that your hands grab on to power
    You don’t want relinquished that PM post. Why are you so power hungry? When you make that statement it was good for the labor party then, but now the shoe is on the other foot it is not good for the NDP, But for someone who love to quote scriptures remember that same bible states, DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT OTHERS DO UNTO YOU!!

  8. What is good for the goose, is also good for the gander!! Now that your hands grab on to power. You don’t want to relinquished that PM post.
    Why are you so power hungry? When you make that statement it was good for the labor party then, but now the shoe is on the other foot it is not good for the NDP, But for someone who loves to quote scriptures remember that same bible states, DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT OTHERS DO UNTO YOU!

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