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Kenny ‘back’, Chou ‘gone’

While we await the official results of Guyana’s presidential, parliamentary and regional elections that also took place on Monday, the refrain of the political chorus in St Lucia goes something like this:

“Kenny is back, Tom Chou gone”. It underscores an inevitable diplomatic defeat for Taiwan, which had heavily bankrolled the losing incumbent United Workers Party (UWP) of Stephenson King and, simultaneously signal the coming triumphant return of the People’s Republic of China to re-establish an embassy in Castries.

Within months of the UWP’s defeat in December 2006 of Anthony’s then two-term SLP, King—as successor prime minister to the late founder-leader of the UWP, Sir John Compton, had moved to displace China by having a Taiwanese embassy instead in Castries.

It came as a very lucrative political gesture for the UWP against the dying wish of Sir John, who became seriously ill shortly after his party had scored a decisive 11-6 parliamentary majority against Anthony’s then second-term SLP.

Circumventing established constitutional norms in accounting for funds privately allocated for claimed projects in the then 11 UWP constituencies, the Taiwanese government was to spend an estimated EC$1 million as a “gift” development funding in each of those constituencies—as was to be subsequently disclosed in the nation’s parliament by a then dissenting MP of the governing party.

This most extraordinary and unprecedented form of foreign funding in support of a government in the Caribbean region, was to prove a recurring political controversy over external interference in the domestic affairs of St Lucia. It grew in intensity long before Monday’s general election with the Labour Party’s 10-7 majority victory in the 17-member House of Assembly.

For his part, Taiwan’s ambassador to St Lucia, Tom Chou, had become so emboldened by the defence and praise he was receiving from Prime Minister King’s UWP administration, that he was arrogantly displaying his government’s financial backing by even making payments directly to contractors, personally or via his embassy for specific projects.

Little wonder, therefore, for this year’s carnival in St Lucia, Chou became the object of multifaceted satire from calypsonians, with some entertaining manifestations of “chewing on Chou”.

Now, as Anthony prepares to be sworn in today for the third time as Prime Minister, the Taiwanese envoy Chou would be readying himself to depart St Lucia if he has not already done so.

Meanwhile, in Guyana, the incumbent People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was last evening awaiting official confirmation from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to determine whether it had won Monday’s presidential and parliamentary elections against its two challengers—APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) and AFC (Alliance for Change).

Both GECOM and foreign observer missions had earlier signalled their general agreement of a free and fair poll and commended the security forces for their efforts to maintain the peace, even amid some isolated disturbances at polling stations.

What the GECOM confirmation is likely to officially reveal, possibly by late today (Wed), is that the incumbent PPP/C would have succeeded in gaining the single largest bloc of valid votes but not necessarily the outright majority for the 65-member parliament that could necessitate the formation of a coalition government.

During the election campaign both the APNU and AFC had repeatedly spoken in favour of a coalition government, though it was not clear if this meant a coalition between them or a broad-based national unity government that involves the PPP/C

Latest report out of Guyana at the time of writing pointed to the incumbent PPP/C securing just about half the percentage point short of an overall 50 per cent of the valid ballots counted.

Since the Guyana constitution provides for the party with the single largest bloc of votes to assume the post as executive president and head of state, this would mean that while the PPP/C’s candidate Donald Ramotar, would be invited to take the oath.

Then the challenging negotiations could begin for the formation of a broad-based coalition government, or possibly with the establishment of a minority government.

The last time a coalition was formed against the PPP was in 1964 between the PNC and then United Force under the first proportional representation electoral system. Then, while the PPP had won the largest bloc of seats, the two opposition parties combined votes gave them the plurality of seats.

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