The Antigua and Barbuda race finally came off in June of 2014 and was won convincingly by the Antigua Labour Party. However, elections in St Kitts and Nevis which the article indicated were “highly likely” have not yet happened.
The Douglas administration now stands out as the longest standing in the Caribbean, in the shadow of a vote of no-confidence which appears to have sufficient support to succeed. As such, the case of St Kitts now has to be reclassified from being one of a likely early election to one of a necessary scheduled election.
Having gone to the polls on January 25, 2010, St Kitts and Nevis will likely see the fifth anniversary of this administration now pass without an announced date for a general election. While the Douglas administration can legally continue until June 2015 (since the first sitting of the Parliament was not until March 2010), the Antigua outcome demonstrates that there might be a political cost arising from this prolonged wait.
The other case mentioned in 2014 was St Vincent and the Grenadines, where change was considered “possible but unlikely”. The envisaged scenario was that of an early election on the heels of an early delivery of the Argyle International Airport (easily the most ambitious project in the country’s modern history), which could have made a challenging fourth ULP term possible.
A fourth term is now still possible, but the fact that we have now passed the December 13th fifth anniversary of the 2010 election and the airport is yet to function, presents a hurdle the ULP could well do without.
As is the case in St Kitts and Nevis, the St Vincent and the Grenadines government did not call Parliament until March 3, and will therefore have until June 3, 2015 (plus 3 months) within which to legally call their election. The issue now therefore is one of strategy and not time as we move from an optional early election on the back of a successful project, to being forced to defend an expensive project which appears late within the context of an election one is forced to call.
Dr Gonsalves is easily one of the most astute politicians in the region and one assumes he yet has a few tricks up his sleeve that could deliver the often elusive fourth term, so we eagerly anticipate the St Vincent election in the first quarter of this year.
Last year’s review did not anticipate an election in Guyana and this was perhaps an oversight since that government was aways fragile. A vote of no confidence was finally introduced in November of this year and in response the president exercised his option to suspend parliament.
This suspension can continue for up to six months and thereafter must be followed by an election, which means Guyana will most likely be heading to the polls by May of this year unless Ramotar can attract support from a section of the Guyana parliament that has heretofore been unsupportive.
This outcome is unlikely, so an election there is imminent and the outcome is anything but certain. While the government has clearly lost the confidence of the majority in Guyana, it is important to remember that there are other factors at play.
The residual core of support for the PPP/Civic is presumably motivated by racial factors which will not change and the oppositon forces are yet to present a single unified option to the counter the PPP/Civic; hence one assumes that unless the opposition moves in a way that is seismic, an election will do little to resolve the political stalemate.
The next focus is Trinidad and Tobago, where the Persad-Bissessar coalition which was all but written-off by most commentators, appears to have caught a “second win”. The last elections there were called early by Manning and elections therefore are now due in May. One presumes that Persad-Bissessar would normally opt for an early election since the continual slide of oil prices has created some amount of economic vulnerability.
She is, however, fenced in by a commitment to a fixed term which would mean that any election too short of the full 60-month term requires some justification. Either way the political stage is now set for one of the most intriguing political contests in recent Caribbean history.
The Caribbean is still in the midst of a protracted recession and as such governments which have no obligation to go to the polls will likely avoid doing so. Therefore elections in places like Jamaica, St Lucia and Belize will most likely not occur this year (early).
There is, however, the case of Barbados which presented itself as the most fragile of administrations in 2013. This administration’s political performance has defied expectations, while its economic performance continues to leave much to be desired. Should the two aspects merge, the outcome will be a level of political toxicity that might precipitate a fifth election in 2015, making this year even more politically intriguing.
Reprinted from the Peter Wickham column, “People & Things”, Barbados Nation News.
Peter W. Wickham (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).