By Lloyd Noel
The stage is now all set for general elections come February 19 – and even the OAS has already agreed to assist, and to monitor the elections on that important date.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
The political climate was so cool and low key for the previous six months from July to December 2012, and in just a few days of the New Year it is like a political heatwave – with everything happening almost overnight with very little time to spare.
It all seems to suggest that, while actions in the political arena appeared very quiet and standing still, those in control must have been planning behind the scenes, and putting the pieces together for publication.
So here we are, just nine days – at the time of writing this article – since parliament was dissolved in preparation for general elections, and we have the date and voters registration already closed.
The next four weeks to Election Day on 19th February will be very crucial and even more significant in the political history of our tri-island state.
Because of the shortness of time from the date of the dissolution, to the date of the Governor General’s writ – which brought a closure to the registration of voters – a lot of people who delayed getting their names on the register will not be able to cast their votes on the 19th February.
Which of the two main parties that delay will mostly affect only time will tell after the votes are counted but the popular theory is that most of the NNP supporters went to register since last year, so those who were turned away on the last night for registering, were mainly NDC and the two or three new parties now rising up.
And talking about the new parties recently coming on the election scene, it will be very interesting to see how many candidates they will be nominating come 1st February to face the voters on the 19th.
And while their supporters may not be very significant in numbers, in areas where the two main parties are close, candidates from these smaller parties can make some differences.
So now that all the relevant dates have been settled, it is a straight case of all systems go – as voters listen to the plans and promises of the various candidates for their respective constituencies.
It is one stage for hearing the party leaders, and reading their manifesto as it applies to the national programs, but it is, or should be, quite different when the candidate is canvassing in the constituency. Because when the results are known, it is the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area on whom the voters will have to rely to assist them in providing services for the parish.
It is well known and fully understood, that the respective MPs will be appointed to positions in the government administration of the winning party, and as such they will have national responsibilities to attend and carry out.
Nevertheless, they also have a duty to be at the service of the parishioners who voted them into Parliament, and that duty should not be neglected if they wish to be voted back as MPs for another term as the government.
Too often we hear of and see some of those appointed as ministers behaving as though their only function and responsibility are to the central arm of government, while the parishes are neglected and the people ignored until the next election is drawing closer.
The two or three weeks should be the time you the voters fully assess the candidates – in order to determine which of the two front-runners is the more suitable for serving the parishioners’ needs.
Simply voting for a candidate, so as to get the party he/she is representing into office – regardless of the person’s qualifications, or standing in the society, or where he/she lives out of the parish – in my view is not good enough, as far as the voters’ interests and constituency upliftment are concerned.
The days when the late Eric Gairy of the GULP used to boast that if he put up a cat or any animal in the constituency, the people would vote for it, because it was he they were voting for not the animal, have a long time ago gone out of fashion, and voters should be choosing their MPs based on his/her merits and qualifications and not simply on party loyalty.
The candidates have all been named and introduced by the parties at rallies, so the people have seen and heard them, and now have some more time to assess them and question them, as they go about the parishes making themselves better known to the voters.
Having said the above, however, it cannot be denied that our employment situation and living standards are in shambles, and whichever party wins the upcoming elections, the leaders have a major task on their hands to implement measures to bring some relief to those in desperate need.
This would mean attracting Investors and sourcing funds to provide jobs, and therefore the leaders must have the contacts, and knowledge of the financial institutions to get things moving.
And while a lot of unacceptable actions and decisions have taken place in the past – involving both parties and their leaders while in office – our people and the nation’s business have to be taken care of by whoever the winners maybe.
So that, while the wrongdoings cannot be forgotten overnight, they should not be concentrated on without exceptions, and an attitude of non-understanding, because both sides have their weakness and failures.
Whoever the people vote into office to control our nation’s affairs, we have to accept their choices and hope and trust that the winners will learn from their past mistakes and shortcomings.
The next four weeks will be critical, but whatever is being said and promised, I do hope people’s rights are respected and the proceedings remain peaceful.