Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Sunday, divided St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the main island and the rest of the archipelago as he attempted to explain what he said is the difference between the political situation now and in 1998.
In 1998, the New Democratic Party (NDP) was re-elected to office, having won eight of the 15 seats in parliament under the nation’s first-past-the-post system.
However, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) — of which Gonsalves was deputy political lead and is now leader — won the popular vote.
Gonsalves, then an opposition lawmaker, wrote an article, “One Is Not Enough In St. Vincent and The Grenadines”. He argued that while the NDP had the legal authority to rule, it lacked political legitimacy.
In 2000, the NDP agreed to early election amidst political unrest, and the ULP won those polls, which were held in March 2001.
And, in the Nov. 5 general elections this year, the ULP won a fifth consecutive term in office, when it won nine of the 15 parliamentary seats.
One of those seats, North Leeward, was won by a single vote.
However, while the ULP won the majority of the seats, it lost the popular votes, meaning that more persons who voted on election day voted for the opposition party.
Since the polls, the opposition had noted Gonsalves’ position in 1998 when the situation was reversed and the opposition ULP won the popular vote.
Speaking on WE FM on Sunday, Gonsalves acknowledged the article which the opposition has quoted.
“But it is not only a question of context, it is a question of what are the facts dealt with in that article,” he said, and quoted the headline of the article in part — “One is not enough”.
“And in what context one is not enough, what is the factual matrix? That they had 45% of the vote and we, in 1998, had 55%.
“Well, for heaven’s sake, if anybody can’t see the difference between a half of one percentage point difference now, which amount to even-steven and 10 percentage points, they are delusional,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, did not say at what percentage point the majority vote counts as the majority vote.
The prime minister said that the opposition must not quote just one sentence of his article.
“They must quote the article and look at it in its totality and look at the title, ‘One is not enough’ and the point I was making, simply is this: if you win by one seat, as they did in 1998 — the NDP — and you are trailing by 10 percentage points, that one seat is just not enough in those circumstances.”
He said he did not think that was a difficult proposition to have accepted “given the understandings, a number of concepts relating to political legitimacy and the question of legal authority”.
The prime minister said that he had made the point in the article that the NDP had the legal authority to govern.
“Well, that legal authority now is even being questioned by the NDP. They are questioning the legal authority of this government to govern. And what they are doing, they are conflating quote-unquote political legitimacy and legal authority.”
He said legal authority is “one of the inputs toward political legitimacy.
“Legal authority, authoritativeness, those are foundation stones toward political legitimacy but political legitimacy also requires the consent of the governed. And that consent is made manifest with what is the factual situation.”
He said that the factual situation on the ground is that SVG has 13 seats on the main island and two in the Grenadines.
On St. Vincent Island, the ULP won nine of the 13 seats, Gonsalves said.
“We lead by nearly 2,000 votes, on this main island, St. Vincent. Of course, the Grenadines are part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and we will long remain so though that the NDP founder had never resiled from his Grenadines Declaration and I haven’t known if the Grenadines itself has ever done so and that is a document on record to them.
“But the difference is, currently, half of one percentage point. Therefore, the concept of proportionality comes in because legitimacy is always tied not only to authoritativeness and legal authority but very much to effectiveness.”
Gonsalves suggested Martin Lipset’s book “Political Man” written in 1960 and the work of Rothstein and Buchannan as reference material on the issue of political legitimacy.
He noted that the ULP has a two-seat majority.
“And I wrote an article about one is not enough and it is very fascinating to see that they are trying to quote my article without understanding the richness of the article in its totality and I am not resiling from what I said. I am only quoting the factual situations.”
He said that some persons would argue that legal equals legitimacy.
“And that is correct from a narrow legal standpoint but the elastic concept of political legitimacy goes beyond legal authority, though it includes legal authority.
“But the NDP wants to take the concept of political legitimacy without the input of legal authority and authoritativeness and the actual facts themselves and are spewing them and are thinking that 2020 is a reprise of 1998, which it is not, factually.
“… I will tell them this: if they think this is a reprise, this is a repeat of 1998, they will find in me a formidable man of the streets. I don’t have to say more than that.”
Gonsalves, however, admitted that political legitimacy is “an elastic concept”.
“And then we do have the consent of the governed, I am saying, because what we do have here is on the ground, a sliver, less than half or half of one percentage point or thereabout is the difference, and the way it is spread, in our political system, and in our territory will tell you it is statistically insignificant and negligible and does not go to any legitimacy issue. Only if you are delusional you’ll hold that position,” he said.