By Ian Francis
As the General Election date of February 19, 2013, approaches in Grenada, voters are convinced that they will be faced with a "post-electoral drama and comedy" which was created by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas, Naz Burke and Glen Noel.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at email@example.com
Empty promises of projects in the pipeline: dredging of Hermitage River; harbour upgrade facilities in Sauteurs and Requin; Finance Minister Burke’s misplacement of US$600 million in signed project agreements and, of course, the building of a new General Hospital in Calivigny are comedies that voters will have to live with. They are calculated political lies of the Thomas NDC destined to fool Grenadians in Grenada and the Diaspora that they have been on the ball between 2008-2013.
Unfortunately, they were marred with outing fires that led to a mutinous ship running aground in Gouyave and a group of other mutinous drunken sailors abandoning the ship and swimming ashore in La Tante Bay sometime in July 2012.
In spite of the mutinous and reckless behaviour demonstrated by the Thomas NDC between 2008-2013, it was quite heartening to have read the Barbados-based 360 News Online of January 24, 2013, which quoted Grenada's Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit, as stating that there are over 60,000 registered voters for the coming general elections. This is indeed a very high number of registered voters, given the estimated population of 80,000 in Grenada and the 2008 registered voters of 70,869.
Based on this information, there are two obvious reasons that require comments. There seem to be a decrease of voters’ registration by 10,869 and, since the last elections, the youth population has significantly increased. While there seem to be a decline in the number of registered voters from 2008, there is no doubt that the opposition New National Party (NNP) had embarked upon a relentless campaign of registering the youth vote and exercising vigilance and due diligence of the registered lists.
Based on observations and discussions with various persons familiar with voters registration in Grenada, there is indeed an emerging consensus that the NNP's vigilance has worked.
According to various media reports, both the NNP and NDC will contest all fifteen seats. The newly formed third party known as the National United Front (NUF) will field three candidates in the electoral constituencies of St George South, St George South East and St Patrick East. It is also reliably informed that the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) and the Peoples United Labour Party (PULP) will also be fielding candidates but not likely to have an electoral impact.
As the election drama unfolds, local observers and analysts are looking at the constituencies of St Patrick East and West, St George South East and South St George, which is contested by Glynis Roberts, leader of NUF, expelled NDC member and current constituency MP. The NDC will field Merle Byer, who was the campaign manager for Roberts in the 2008 elections. The NNP candidate is young Andrea Otway-Noel. Given the three way contest and the NDC split, it is expected that that the NNP candidate will capture this constituency.
St Patrick West is quite interesting. During the 2008 elections, Joe Gilbert of the NDC defeated the NNP’s Tony Boatswain by approximately 68 votes. Boatswain is the opposition spokesperson on finance and development and, since his loss to Gilbert, he has worked the constituency very hard and has re-emerged as a very likeable candidate. Gilbert, who was fired by Thomas as minister of communications and works and also expelled from the NDC, has been sitting on the political fence as a very confused person. Recent rumours indicated that he would contest the constituency as an independent. However, Gilbert has been tight lipped. Given the existing confusion with the incumbent in this district, the popular feeling is that Boatswain will return as the sitting NNP-MP in this constituency.
Prime Minister Thomas's constituency of St Patrick East continues to be the constituency of interest. As evidence indicates, it is a targeted constituency, as the NNP desire is to see the final nail driven in the coffin for Thomas's defeat.
To provide a frank and objective analysis of this constituency, in the 2008 elections, Thomas fought extremely hard and held on to the constituency by 168 votes. Since elected, many things have changed, which included NNP's recruitment of a much stronger and credible candidate with strong constituency roots; and the River Sallee voting station precinct where Thomas seemed to have secured his victory vote seems to have disintegrated into different directions, thus eroding the Thomas base. Coupled with the above two observations, there is the strong possibility that Thomas will endure a three-way fight with PULP's leader Winty Frederick, Pablo of the NNP and Valdon Paul of NUF. Given Paul's deep and previous association with the NDC, there is no doubt that his entree into the election fray could do some damage to Thomas and assist Pablo to get over the hump.
Ferron Lowe's candidacy in St George South East is seen as filling the reluctant slate of NUF. In his capacity as deputy political leader, he recently confided to a close friend that he was quite disappointed with the action of certain expelled NDC members. Lowe noted that at least three of the expelled NDC members had indicated to NUF that they would seek office under the banner of the party. Given his close proximity to the leader's constituency and as a constituent in the South East, he had no alternative but to seek political office. Lowe's entry is very unlikely to change an expected NNP win with Gregory Bowen.
After all is said and done, elections will be held on February 19, 2013, and there will be a very large turnout of registered voters. The NNP seem to be running a savvy media and populist campaign while the NDC seem stuck preaching good governance and integrity.
Finally, voters are bawling and want immediate change to improve their quality of life. A landslide of thirteen NNP to two NDC seats seems to be a reasonable indicator as outlined by the pollsters.