By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Nov. 20, 2020)
“The class struggle created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.” — Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire
Five in a row. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has spent an entire generation in opposition and the party’s leadership still don’t get it. When you are on a winning streak, it is easier to keep on winning. A losing streak? Well, you have to find a way to break through. Sadly, the NDP appears not to have a clue. In the aftermath of a 5th consecutive defeat, Dr Friday, vice presidents Major Leacock and Patel Mathews, along with Kay Bacchus-Baptiste sound like a bunch of grumpy old…
Even though the ULP lost the popular vote, it won an additional seat to go into the new Parliament with a nine to six lead. All things considered, this feat is nothing to frown on. The ULP was vying for a historic fifth term.
The plain truth is that the NDP failed to deliver yet again. Going forward, the party needs to engage in collective introspection. It must completely recalibrate its plans, programmes and presence if it intends to remain relevant. Losing streaks are hard to break. The popular vote triumph by the opposition may lull it into a state of confident complacency, only to be slammed again with yeah — six defeats in a row.
The signs are not promising for a much-improved opposition ready to engage policy-centred debate. Here’s why: Following the elections, Opposition Leader Dr. Friday told the nation:
“As they argued then, we assert now that the outcome of the recent elections means that those in government now have lost the moral authority to govern.
This creates a crisis of governance in our nation that will only be resolved when the people are again governed by a government that has the support of a majority of the people…It is a fundamental and treasured principle of democracy that a government that does not have the support of the majority of the people lacks a mandate from the people to govern them. It lacks democratic legitimacy.”
Where did Dr Friday get this cockeyed view of our system of parliamentary democracy? From the same Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who he tried to replace as prime minister in the Nov. 5 elections.
In 1998, the NDP led by James Mitchell won the elections eight to seven. Gonsalves, deputy leader of the ULP, declared, “All reasonable people 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 per cent of our voters have stated unequivocally that they do not want to be ruled by the NDP. The NDP slender one-seat majority may, in a narrow legal sense be legal, but it lacks popular legitimacy and moral authority.”
Our Constitution allows for a first-past-the-post system of elections. It is this system that allows Tourism and Culture minister Carlos James to sit in the Parliament as an elected parliamentarian. He won by one vote. It is the same system that allowed the NDP to maintain government in 1998. The popular vote does not determine which party will govern. The party that wins eight or more seats secures the right to govern.
For Friday to invoke Gonsalves words 22 years after they were first uttered is clear evidence that opposition leaders continuously look to Gonsalves for talking points and legitimacy. When the NDP’s fourth term was cut short in 2001 following mass protest, the opposition blamed Gonsalves and scornfully dubbed the popular protest of 2000 a “Road Block Revolution”.
Throughout the last 20 years, the opposition has tried time and again to replicate those protests with the hope it will bring down the ULP government. All such efforts failed because the opposition improperly concluded that if Gonsalves did it successfully, we could, too. In a misplaced act of monkey see, monkey do, it failed to appreciate the fact that then the people were unprepared to be ruled in the old way. That determination, coupled with the errors of the NDP government created the conditions that led to the turmoil and eventual removal of the government in 2001.
The whining analysis about why they lost the 2020 elections is not surprising but appalling annoying. Defeated parties tend to mourn rather than engaging in the necessary high-quality organization.
Major Leacock said raw cash made the difference in the turnout at the 2020 general election. “It is amazing that people can sell their vote and their freedom and their future… So I am not laying blame that we are not in government today at the feet of the NDP. It is the people’s will that they are willing to spend the next five years waiting on a handout.”
Seriously!? You failed to convince a sufficient amount of people to vote for you.
Patel Mathews said along with “bribery people were threatened that if they voted a particular way, their elderly relatives would be taken off public assistance”.
Do these men listen to themselves? If more people wanted to vote for Mathews, they would have done so in much the same way 2,270 persons did. The vote is secret. The intimidation claim is similar to that made by the ULP in 1998 when it lost eight to seven.
Kay Bacchus-Baptiste laced into the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism for declaring the elections “free and fair”. Bacchus-Baptiste said, ‘it annoyed me because we all live in St Vincent… there can be no gainsaying that millions of dollars were spent in most of the constituencies as bribery. It makes no sense purporting to be fair-minded and at the end issue a report that does not reflect reality.”
The problem for the opposition is that it told the people to eat them out, drink them out and vote them out. More importantly, the opposition offers the false narrative that it was only the governing party that doled out giveaways.
Rather than call for transparency and complete disclosure of all money raised, it cries like annoying spoilt brats about bribery. Yes, there was bribery, but clearly, the opposition complaint has to be that it was outspent, not that the ULP had a monopoly.
With the sub-par quality of our political class, SVG ain’t going anyplace fast.
*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].