Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pollster gives victory to ULP

(Rickey starts his column about polling, but he quickly gets to Sir James' verbal attack on the CARICOM Secty-General, which I also thought was in bad taste, much like the Republicans in the States who would love to see the US go down the tubes if it would hurt Obama.)

Rickey Singh

With eight days to go before Vincentians vote on December I3 for a new I5-member House of Assembly, the Barbadian political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham has forecast a return to power of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves' Unity Labour Party (ULP) for a third consecutive term.

However, Wickham, who has a performance record for getting it right — in most cases — in predicting outcomes of national elections within Caricom thinks that, on the basis of his latest poll, the incumbent ULP could "possibly lose a few seats" from the dozen won at the last general election in 2005.

Wickham's prediction last week coincided with an open verbal attack on the Caribbean Community's outgoing Secretary General Edwin Carrington by former long-serving Vincentian Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell for, as he claimed, "meddling" in his country's politics at this time.

Recognised as an elder statesman of the Caricom bloc of states, Sir James, founder of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and now 79, is not known to engage in this sort of public verbal chastisement of regional officials. Certainly not against someone like the Trinidad and Tobago-born Carrington, who retires this month end after serving the Community as Secretary General for I8 years.

So what political sin did Carrington, who was recently conferred with a knighthood by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, commit to make Sir James so visibly angry?

A quick response could be current political tension in Vincentian election politics, the likely outcome of which seems to be unnerving even seasoned veterans like Sir James.

The Opposition NDP, under the leadership of Arnhim Eustace, is locked in a very tense battle against Gonsalves' ULP to avoid a three-in-a-row defeat on December I3.

Revealing nervousness?

In a telephone conversation I had from St Vincent with Wickham, the director of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) said that the "general mood" points to the ULP's return to power. And while elections usually produce many surprises, he said: "I do not expect a victory for the NDP."

Could it be that Sir James himself had misgivings about the outcome of the December I3 poll when he rushed to the local media to slam Carrington for alleged meddling in Vincentian politics?
After all, according to media reports, what Carrington said during a one-day visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines to assess the damage done by Hurricane Tomas (having also visited battered St Lucia on the same mission) could hardly justify Sir James's expression of "personal disgust".

Carrington said nothing about either the conduct or likely outcome of the coming December I3 poll. He made no criticisms of any party or politician. He did praise the "home-grown capacity" of the Vincentian Government and people for much of the restoration of services and rehabilitation works underway following the destruction caused by Tomas.

Nevertheless, with media images of Carrington and Gonsalves embracing during the secretary general's visit ahead of Caricom's scheduled monitoring of the Decemer I3 poll, Sir James wondered aloud:
"Can the secretary general be impartial?" he asked of the local Searchlight newspaper, and declared:
"It is totally disgusting what I saw this morning in the Searchlight... Prime Minister Gonsalves embracing Carrington and Carrington making statements in praise of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, while the Parliament is dissolved and Caricom is sending an observer mission (for the election) into this country."

The reality

The reality is, as known to Vincentians across the political divide, Carrington's visits to both St Lucia and St Vincent to assess post-hurricane needs had been announced ahead of the secretary general's mission. He had words of commendation for "recovery" efforts by St Lucians as well as Vincentians during his respective visits.

As Sir James was seemingly revealing his personal anxieties over the likely outcome of the poll, supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb and her team were intensifying preparations for release of the final voters' register this weekend.

The total eligible electorate is expected to be below 95,000, as was the case in 2005 when the ULP won its second term by a I2-3 parliamentary landslide with 55.26 per cent of the valid votes to the NDP's 44.68 per cent.

But Gonsalves and his ULP were to suffer a very hurtful political blow at the country's national referendum in Novermber last year when the Government's bid for a republican-type constitution was roundly defeated.

Meanwhile, materials and financial resources representing post-hurricane emergency aid continue to arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines from various sources.

The Guyana Government announced early last week delivery of financial asistance of US$I00,000 (EC$270,000) each for St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

President Bharrat Jagdeo also expressed hope that international donors would respond to calls from the rest of Caricom for "much-needed assistance" to enable St Lucia and St Vincent to "return to a state of normalcy".

Read more: