Friday, December 24, 2010

Comments on the Elections

Note from Karl: I try to avoid partisan politics, but this is interesting just as prose.

Who else went to both the Argyle super-rally and the Taurus Riley super-rally? Who else listened to both Astaphan and Lynch on talk radio? Who else went to both the ULP and the NDP’s post-election rallies? Who else is gonna stop, analyse and give you 4,000 words on the General Elections? No one but VP.

Here we go:


Ralph Gonsalves: One year ago, the political obituaries had been written. The referendum campaign had blown up spectacularly in his face. There were allegations of rape and sexual harassment. Lynch and NICE radio were vilifying him daily. The national economy was limping along. He was a “lame duck” Prime Minister, said the NDP. Arnhim Eustace crowed that he, Arnhim, was “the man in charge.”

What a difference a year makes.

D’ Comrade rolled the dice, jettisoning more than half of the incumbent ULP MPs (Rene Baptiste, Glen Beache, Mike Browne, Conrad Sayers, Douggie Slater, Louis Straker, Selmon Walters) plus 2005 contestant Julian Francis. Half of the new faces succeeded, and exactly half of the ULP’s eight MPs are rookies (Saboto, Agustus, Ces, Maxwell).

Like Gonsalves said after the election, “a win is a win.” And he is PM for five more years. That’s the point of the contest: to win the elections and be Prime Minister, right? He has locked down (most) of the Windward side of the island, and is reasonably well positioned for a 4th ULP term (more on that later). A win is a win. And a winner is a winner.

“Major” St Clair Leacock: Leacock is the biggest winner on the NDP side. He worked hard in his constituency for 10 years in opposition, building alliances and influencing the youth vote. He portrayed himself as the only man with the “guts” to take on Ralph Gonsalves (not the brains; not the vision; the guts. In that sense, he’s right). Better than that, the NDP’s golden child, Linton Lewis, got his but kicked again in East St. George.

Believe it or not, “Major” Leacock is now the odds-on favourite to take over the NDP after Arnhim accepts the reality of three straight defeats. Which means that Leacock will soon be 2,000 votes away from the Prime Ministership of SVG. Leacock could not have imagined a better outcome. For his personal ambitions, this result is even better than an NDP victory.

(Sidenote: I will NEVER be able to take this man seriously if he keeps calling himself “Major.” He was in the frikkin CADETS!!! He basically did marching drills! SVG has no army, but he’s a major?!? And why doesn’t anyone else who was in the cadets refer to themselves by their “military” rank? Where are all the other generals and majors and lieutenants and sergeants from the Cadets? Why don’t we refer to retired police officers by their rank? This is so dumb.)

Saboto Caesar: In 2010, there was a swing against the ULP in almost every constituency. In terms of margin of victory, every ULP victory was slimmer than the previous election. Except in Caesar’s South Central Windward. True, he only increased Selmon Walters’ 2005 margin of victory by a mere 2 votes, but he also picked up 157 votes more than Walters got. And he had to contend with literally two plane-loads of NDP voters being flown in to his constituency on the eve of election, most of whom voted in Greggs.

Saboto is also now the heir-apparent to Gonsalves’ leadership of the ULP. He’s smart, handsome, charismatic, hardworking and winner of a solid ULP stronghold. None of the other rumoured pretenders to the throne (Luke Browne, Camillo Gonsalves, Glen Beache, Rene Baptiste) can claim all five of those attributes. Right now, the only thing standing between Saboto and Ralph is Ralph himself. And Ralph seems “well pleased” with his young apprentice. Giving Saboto the Ministry of Tourism – arguably the second-most-powerful ministry in the government – is a clear indication of the Comrade’s blessing.

Clayton Burgin: Clayton has strong disagreements with verbs. And nouns. And adjectives. He didn’t have the educational pedigree of most of the 2005-2010 ULP cabinet. He didn’t seem particularly well-liked in East St. George. And he was going up against none other than Dr. Linton Lewis – heir apparent in the NDP, with the glittering sports background, academic quality, and successful business.

Guess what? In 2005, Clayton beat Linton by 700 votes. In 2010, he beat him by 692. In five years, with a national swing against the ULP, Clayton slipped a mere eight votes against a quality opponent. Give jack his jacket. The man is a winner.

Daniel Cummings: The licks Daniel Cummings put on Michelle Fife should have him jailed for assault. Quick, guess the two seats where the NDP won by the biggest margins. If you picked North and South Grenadines, you’d only be half right. Cummings beat Fife by 513 votes. Only in Bequia did the NDP do better, in terms of raw votes. West Kingstown is now a safe NDP seat in the next elections. The reason for that is equal parts Cummings and Fife (more on her in the “Losers” section), but the fact is that the two NDP candidates who will worry least about their seats in the next election are Friday in Bequia and Cummings in West Kingstown.

Unfortunately, he is as mad as a hatter, so no one will seriously consider him for leadership of the NDP. Insane people don’t usually make good leaders (see Gairy, Sir Eric; Hitler, Adolf; Caligula, Caesar).

Julian Francis: After the referendum, Julian Francis got demoted. He was stripped of his ministerial post and asked to go back to what he does best, which is organizing rallies and mobilizing crowds. He was given 12 months to revive a dispirited base of support, and he was given no money to do it. Look around town to see how badly the ULP was outspent in this campaign: Hardly any posters. No foreign entertainment. No fireworks. No cool ladies t-shirts and sleeveless tees and backpacks like last time (in fact, some really cheap shirts, and not a lot of them either).

But three of the four biggest crowds of the campaign were ULP crowds (Victoria Park twice, Argyle once – the fourth was the NDP/Taurrus Riley event in Victoria Park). That’s not an indication of support (remember the biggest crowd of the referendum was the YES Vote/Busy Signal event), but it is an indication of energy. Francis got the base out to vote. And the ULP base is still a bit bigger than the NDP base.

The grumblings are already starting about his reappointment to a ministerial post. Fair enough, he’s not a likable guy. But in a reduced cabinet of limited experience, you need some people who just get things done. Francis has proven that he’s one of those people.

The Grenadines: If you wanna know how pissed I am that the Grenadines are two seats, take a browse through some of my previous posts on this blog. Simply put, there are not enough people in the Grenadines to justify it being two seats. Which means that a Grenadine vote is worth almost twice as much as a mainland vote. Which is unfair. And unconstitutional. And wrong. As far as I'm concerned, the ULP didn't win 8-7, they won 8-6. Looks kinda different, doesn't it?

But here we are again, counting the Grenadines as two instead of one. So they win again.

Check this out: Godwin Friday won the Northern Grenadines in a romp, with 80% of the vote. But Friday’s TOTAL VOTES (2,019) would not have earned him a victory in ANY SEAT ON THE MAINLAND. In fact, seven losing candidates on the mainland got MORE votes than Friday got in his landslide victory! (the losers of East Kingstown, Central Kingstown, South Leeward, North Leeward, East St. George, West St. George and Central Leeward).

Make it worse: Terrance Ollivere’s comfortable 63% victory in the Southern Grenadines came on the strength of a mere 1,112 votes!! Excuse me, but WTF?!? On the mainland, only one of the 26 ULP or NDP candidates got less than 1,112 votes, and that was the NDP’s sacrificial lamb in the Comrade’s constituency.

Put it another way: About 4,300 people voted in the North and South Grenadines combined. If “the Grenadines” was one constituency, those 4,300 people would be the third-smallest constituency in the country (11th out of 14 constituencies).

But, somehow, 4,300 people in the Grenadines get to elect two representatives to Parliament. But the 5,200 voters in East St. George only get one. Ditto the 5,000 in South Leeward.

Crazy. But as long as it continues, the Grenadines win.

Que Pasa: Que Pasa backed the NDP hard in this campaign. Mucho dinero was distributed by him and his minions, often with the faces of dead American presidents. I dunno if its cuz Que Pasa hates Ralph, or Julian, or ULP policy; or if the NDP had promised to make his tax and money laundering issues go away if they were elected. Let's just say that the man spent a lot of his money and used a lot of his time to get rid of the ULP.

Que Pasa’s zone of influence runs up the western coast of St. Vincent from West Kingstown to North Leeward. Guess what? The NDP won three of the four seats on that coast – up from zero in the previous election. Was that all QP’s doing? Of course not. But he helped.

In North Leeward, particularly, QP and the underlings of the extradited Dexter Chance did a great job in mobilizing the ganja farmers and drug runners who usually sit-out election events.

In North Leeward, Jerrol Thompson actually got 71 MORE votes than he got in 2005, when he won the seat. But Patel Matthews grew by 187 votes. A ridiculous 114 of those 187 new votes came from tiny polling stations in Chateaubelair and Petit Bordel. Guess where the drug barons’ stronghold is?

Que Pasa is now a major player in Vincy politics. And that scares me. It scares me a lot.

Vincy Patriot: After the referendum, I was questioning my powers of deduction, analysis and prophecy. After all, it was yours truly who famously said before the referendum: “No way in hell Arnhim gets 51%. Thirty-five percent? Likely. Forty percent? Possible. Fifty-one? Never in a million years.”

But who came roaring back after the referendum? VP, that’s who! 12 months ago – a full year before the election, and back when everyone was predicting a 13-2 ULP defeat, I dropped this tasty nugget on ya’ll:

“So, if everything broke in the ULP’s favour in the next 12 months, and they got their apathetic voters energised, they’re looking at an 8-7 win.”

As it was written, so was it done. I even picked the exact seats that could/would go to ULP and NDP! VP’s powers of prophecy restored!

And for ye doubting Thomases, I also predicted (a) a Nov/Dec election date; (b) that the only “referendum reform” that the ULP would attempt is the increase to 17 constituencies; (c) that the ULP would go with fresh faces while the NDP would go with old veterans; and that (d) Julian Francis would “whip the party machinery into fighting shape in time for the silly season.”

From now on, you can call me Vincy Nostradamus* I’m like Sex Panther cologne: 60% of the time, I work every time!

* past performance not indication of future success.


Arnhim Eustace: I dunno how to tell you this Arnhim, but its over. You haven’t come to terms with that yet, and that’s OK. It’s been a long hard battle. But at some point, your NDP buddies are gonna have an intervention for you. They’re gonna give you a 12-step program. The first step is gonna be acceptance of the fact that you’ll never be PM. The 11th step is gonna be your relinquishing the post of Leader of the Opposition. And the 12th step is you stepping aside in East Kingstown for either Linton Lewis or Louise Mitchell.

Arnhim ran an awful campaign. He had the money. He had the referendum result. He had a global financial crisis. He had voter discontent. All he needed to do was to harness all of it. To ride the wave.

But damned if he didn’t find a way to screw it up. He ceded control to Mitchell. To SCL. To Lynch. He talked “kinder and gentler” out of one side of his mouth while simultaneously descending into gutter politics. He had some members of his team spouting “meritocracy” while others promised to “christen NDP pickney first.” He was downright schizophrenic on major issues like the airport. He hard weird press conferences where he made pie-in-the-sky promises that no one believed. He bitched over an over about minor election discrepancies instead of looking like a leader and letting his underlings sweat the small stuff.

He blew it.

Linton Lewis: If you wanna be leader of the opposition, if you wanna be prime minister, the first thing you gotta do is win a freakin’ seat. That’s job #1. Not bragging to welsh newspapers that you are tipped to succeed Arnhim. Just win a damn seat first.

Sure, Linton is running in a traditional Labour/ULP seat. So I understand if you lose it once. Twice. But three times?!? Against CLAYTON BURGIN?? People say that Clayton may be the dullest knife in the ULP’s kitchen. Yet Linton, with all of his qualifications, and background and bearing, managed to gain a whole 8 votes on Clayton in five years.

The average swing towards the NDP on the mainland was 300 votes per constituency. Linton gained 8. That tells you all you need to know.

Fact is, the more you know Linton, the less you like him. Fact is, he hangs with too many gangster guys and impregnates too many minor girls. Hate to say it, but for all his smarts, he is a sleazy guy. And people can sense that.

Linton’s only shot at parliament is to be installed as Arnhim’s successor in East Kingstown or Terrance’s successor in the Southern Grenadines. But why would Arnhim or leader-in-waiting Leacock ever agree to that?

Michelle Fife: All ULP candidates lost in Kingstown, so no great shame in that. But like I said, in an election where the average swing to the NDP was 300 votes, Michelle managed to preside over a 548-vote swing away from the incumbent. Like I said, West Kingstown is now the safest NDP seat outside of Bequia. And Michelle can be blamed for quite a bit of that.

She was arrogant. She was green. She was shallow. She listened to the wrong people, alienated the wrong people, and displayed zero political instincts. And she ran the worst campaign of any candidate not named Burton Williams. I think her political career is over. And if it isn’t, it should be.

If there is a silver lining to this, hopefully it is that we put to rest this limiting stereotype of women in politics that was forming. The old men that run political parties in SVG seem comfortable with young, shrill, shallow, windbags (see Fife, Michelle; Fredricks, Vynette; Baptiste, Anesia) and scared sh!tless of mature, sensible, substantive women (see Baptiste, Rene; Mitchell, Louise). Now that Michelle and Vynette have flamed out, maybe we can get away from tokenism and non-threatening female stereotypes. Women are out-graduating men in SVG at a 3-1 clip at the university level. And Michelle/Vynette was the best we could find?!?

SCL: The SCL website bragged that they’d never lost a campaign. The SCL leader said policies and programmes be dammed, all you need to do was to connect with the electorate on “an emotional level, to get them to act on a functional level.” It’s what Hitler did, he said. From the shadows, SCL has orchestrated SVG’s 10-year descent into the nasty, divisive gutter politics that we have today.

Well, like Lauryn Hill says, “you might win some/ but you just lost one.” Hopefully they’ll slink off to some other exotic locale to practice their dark arts. And if they wanna stick around, the first thing our new minister of national reconciliation should do is deport their Limey asses.

Vynette Fredrick: I called Vynette a windbag over a year ago. I was tickled to see a Jomo Thomas column in the Vincentian where he used the same adjective. Someone must have told her once that the loudest person wins the argument. She shouldn’t have believed them.

Vynette is one of the most charismatic people in the NDP. But after her performance over the last few years, she is also one of the least respected.

And tactically, she was a complete dud. She misread the importance of the internet in campaigning. And I don’t think it’s because she’s ahead of her time. I think its cuz she’s too lazy to go knocking on doors. And she spent more time fighting Arnhim’s East Kingstown battles against Luke Browne than she did against Ces McKie.

Now that she hitched her wagon so surely to Arnhim, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of her. Arnhim may wanna make her a senator, but the rumour is that neither Leacock nor Sir James think very highly of her.

I think her future lies in some kind of Lynch-style rabble-rousing. But she may yet see the light and make something of herself. For now though, she’s a loser.

Girlyn Miguel: Why is SVG’s first woman deputy prime minister in the “loser” column? Because she ran against a dimwit candidate and barely beat him in an NDP stronghold.

Sure, the newspaper will tell you that she beat him by 568 votes, which was the 4th-largest ULP margin of victory. But Girlyn’s margin of victory declined by a whopping 689 votes from the previous election, and she lost 173 votes from her 2005 vote total. No other ULP candidate on the mainland lost more than 77 votes from the previous election total.

Those kinda numbers speak of rapidly declining personal popularity. Stick a fork in her, she’s done as a candidate.

Luke Browne: During the campaign, Luke supplanted Saboto as the ULP’s golden child. The NDP took him to court. Vynette ambushed him on radio. NDP bloggers attacked him. All those mothers and aunties in the ULP embraced him. On election night, as the results were coming in, everyone was asking: “is Luke beating Arnhim”?

Not even close.

The conventional wisdom on Luke was that he’d get more votes than Julian in East Kingstown, particularly among the suburbanites of Cane Garden, and that his “non-Julian-ness” alone would make the race tighter. Add to the Rhodes Scholar bit, the youth, the good looks, the charm, the work ethic. . . he was the long shout that every ULP supporter was praying for.

Turns out, Julian Francis wasn’t the reason ULP lost East Kingstown. Arnhim Eustace is the reason ULP lost East Kingstown. Luke actually got LESS votes that the evil Julian Francis got in 2005. And the promised Cane Garden “bounce” was a mere 26 votes. And every one of those 26 votes – and more – were lost in Sion Hill.

Luke worked hard, but not smart. He had trouble connecting to the man on the street. And he couldn’t overcome three major issues: (1) people in EK don’t like his dad; (2) he was too young/new for some people; and (3) Kingstowners thought NDP was gonna win the election, so they voted for the guy who they figured would be Prime Minister.

Luke isn’t dead politically. He’s made a name for himself. His best bet now is that Leacock manages to force Arnhim into a premature retirement. If Arnhim steps down from the NDP leadership and quits his seat, you gotta like Luke’s chances to win a by-election.

“Book smarts”: Lets compare last year’s parliament to this one. You’ve lost two medical doctors, a lawyer, and three masters degrees. In the 2010 elections three lawyers got their asses handed to them. A Rhodes Scholar was sent packing. And a known pedophile is in parliament (OK, that last one isn’t related to schooling, but still).

The parliament, and the government’s cabinet, have suffered from “brain drain.” On paper, things seemed to have dumbed-down a notch. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. There are many more perspectives and viewpoints in this parliament. And I think that a lot of those university-educated ministers on the ULP side were pretty damn lazy and aloof. Coming from Milton Cato’s 8-lawyer cabinet, this parliament is a humungous improvement.

Women: Women, to use Gonsalves’ phrase, “owned de campaign.” Especially on the ULP side. Men, unfortunately, are owning de government. I think this is the first time under Gonsalves that he has not named at least one woman to the Senate. I understand that Fife is political toxic waste, and that Forde is reportedly with child. But jeez, some estrogen would have been nice (Girlyn and the attorney general are so old that they don’t have any more estrogen than I do).

Women were pigeonholed into some unflattering stereotypes in this election: windbag. . . accuser. . . voting cattle. Gotta change. Gotta change now.

Negative Campaigning: It didn’t work. 10 years of Lynch didn’t work. A decade of Ralph-bashing didn’t work. Lies, slander, accusations and commess didn’t work.

Let’s put it to bed, shall we? I hope that the postmortems of both parties conclude that the talk-radio scandalmongering is a waste of time. I hope they get a clue. And a plan. And a vision for SVG. Let’s see how THAT works, for a change.

The NDP: This was their election to win or lose. And they lost it. They never made the transition from raucous opposition to showing that they were ready to govern. They botched their positions on the airport and on education. Their manifesto was a joke. They were not united. And they lost more momentum in 12 months than anyone not named Barack Obama.

The NDP blew it. And they have stuck themselves in opposition for another 5-10 years.


OK. First off, this blog is too damn long already. So the fun analysis and prediction bit will come in the coming weeks/months. But lemme sketch it out for you:

The NDP is in trouble.

See, on one hand, I don’t believe in 4th terms. Hardly ever happens in the Caribbean. So the NDP has history on its side. The ULP formed government after a brief tenure as an 8-7 opposition, so the NDP has history on its side again. They could do it. They SHOULD do it.

But. . .

BUT. . .

They got problems.

Problem #1 is that in the next elections, the ULP already has 6 sure seats: North Central Windward, South Central Windward, South Windward, Marriaqua, East St. George and West St. George.

The NDP has 3-4: North and South Grenadines, West Kingstown, and maybe Central Kingstown (if Leacock is then leader of the party).

The next election would be fought in 5 constituencies only: North Windward, East Kingstown, South Leeward, Central Leeward, and North Leeward. And the NDP would have to win 4 of those 5.

Why do I say that? Swings baby, swings.

The average mainland seat swung 300 votes in 2010. That was when everything was against the ULP. Lets say that the average swing somehow gets up to 400 votes per constituency in the next election. Every seat with a greater than 400-vote margin of victory is therefore a “safe” seat in the next election. If you check our history, that pretty much holds up (with a few exceptional exceptions).

ULP only won 8 seats, but they won 6 of those 8 by over 400 votes.

NDP won 7 seats, but three of those were by under 400 votes.

Those 5 are your marginals. And the ULP is in better shape there.

Problem#2 is speculative: The global economy should be stronger. The airport should be complete. The hospital in Georgetown should be done. Kids should have their laptops. In other words, the environment may not be so bad for the ULP as it was this time. The NDP, on the other hand, may be in flux. If they can reinvent themselves in the next 2 years, great. If Arnhim is still hanging on, and Leacock is still trying to supplant him, it won’t end well.

Problem #3 is those 17 constituencies. NDP managed to stall the creation of two extra constituencies using the courts. But that stalling won’t last another 5 years. Parliament has already decreed that there will be two new constituencies. Its gonna happen.

Now, the logical place for the two constituencies, based on demographics, are (1) between East St. George, West St. George and East Kingstown; and (2) between South Leeward, Central Leeward and West Kingstown. Guess what? The St. George’s seat is an almost automatic ULP seat. And any leeward seat that doesn’t include Campden Park is a pretty solid ULP seat too.

So if the ULP stands still, and does nothing other than let parliament’s law get enacted, their slim 8-7 majority is actually a 10-7 majority!! The NDP doesn’t need to win one more seat in the next election, they need to win two.

* * *

Check the blog in a few for a fuller break-down of the data, and what Vincy Nostradamus thinks it all means. Watch the trick of predicting an election result a full term in advance...
Posted by Vincy Patriot at 4:36 PM

Anonymous said...
You need to promote your writings more.
December 23, 2010 10:58 PM
Anonymous said...
Great analysis of the elections to date. Need more persons as your self more vocal and neutral.
December 23, 2010 11:00 PM