Predicting elections is a fool’s errand, as difficult and unpredictable as trying to time the movement of financial markets or pronouncing on what the weather will be like six months from now.
But let me play the half-fool by reducing the odds of being wrong. I do so by offering two dates for the next election: November 2014 and November 2015.
I choose November 2014 because the last election was held four years ago this December and I don’t think the prime minister will want to disrupt another Christmas season, especially given how close the outcome was in 2010 as well as the high probability that the airport will be not much further along by then than it is today. Why risk defeat so late in the year on a broken promise to “substantially” complete the airport this year when the project is still so far from being finished and has been delayed so often when there is still over a year left to govern?
October will soon be here, not all his candidates are in place, the airport is proceeding at a snail’s pace, and Dr Gonsalves seems somewhat back on his heels because of complaints about: larceny at the courthouse and various other government ministries; the silliness of slavery reparations efforts; high unemployment among secondary-school graduates (victims of the so-called “education revolution”); urban congestion, decay, and neglect in Kingstown; a high and growing crime rate; widespread highway disrepair; inadequate natural disaster mitigation efforts; substandard medical and hospital care; and skyrocketing borrowing and debt.
On the other hand, what if recent internal polling results by CADRES, the prime minister’s Barbados-based polling firm, continue to predict that the ULP will win at least eight seats and possibly twelve in the next election, as they supposedly showed this time last year? My contention is that, if these results still held, an election would have already been called. After all, the Government has been in power for nearly four years, long enough to warrant a fresh mandate to rule. My guess is that the results are not in the ULPs favour or are too close to call, a situation that precludes throwing caution to the wind.
Next, I choose November 2015 because a December 2015 election, the very last moment of the mandate, will look like a man clinging desperately to power as he stares down at his inevitable defeat.
And of the months before November 2015? I rule them out only because I am convinced that the airport will still be far from complete – let alone able to accept flights – by the end of October 2015. As the months of the New Year pass with the New Jerusalem still a long way off, the ULP’s prospects for re-election will also begin to slip away. You don’t call an election when you are going downhill.
Let me be very clear: I am among those refuseniks (or “internet crazies” as the PM calls us) who never for one minute believed that the conception and construction of Argyle International Airport (AIA) was anything more than a very clever ruse to maintain political power from one election to another. It was the very construction of the airport – not its completion, not its operation, not its economic spin-offs – that was an end in itself. This is a “political airport,” nothing more, nothing less. It is this simple fact that explains why there was no feasibility study, no proper financing or budgeting, no large workforce using lots of labour-saving equipment, no ongoing cost-benefit analysis, no independent oversight, no concern about missed deadlines, and no study of the alternate uses that could have been made of the monies raised.
None of these and other essential prerequisites for a “real” airport were needed because the AIA has always been an economic mirage meant to draw our gullible people to the polling booth via a New Jerusalem by the sea. A more brilliant Machiavellian masterstroke the Caribbean political world has never seen!
Building an airport in slow motion for maximum political gain is beginning to backfire as the patience of the people is beginning to strain and as the barbs of informed critics keep striking with growing accuracy and ferocity. As the months pass, this grassroots impatience and informed skepticism will continue to grow.
The more completion is delayed, the longer the gap between completion and operation, the greater the cost overruns, the more conspicuous the absence of major airlines willing to service the airport, the higher the public confusion or outright doubt, the more intense the scrutiny of real experts, and the less money available for more credible and worthwhile projects, the less the esteem and credibility of the prime minister and his government.
Then a Rubicon is crossed – as it has been crossed by countless leaders all over the world – and all that is left is a jealous and paranoid clinging to power as the day of political reckoning quickly approaches.
But there is yet hope for a ULP victory in November (2014/2015). It turns out that the best friend of the governing party is its supposedly worst enemy, the NDP.
Led by a dour and ineffectual man, riddled with internal dissension, plagued by lackluster candidates, lacking concrete and detailed classical liberal solutions to our growing economic woes, terrified of criticising the man-made mirage at Argyle, the NDP is a weak alternative to the current regime. Above all, ordinary Vincentians want their politics served with a little pepper sauce. Mr Eustace has none to offer them.
Absent these deficiencies, the Gonsalves-led government would have been rejected in 2011. Their ongoing presence means that the Comrade, a superb sophist and brilliant political campaigner if there ever was one, has a better than even chance of retaining power even as his mirage at Argyle slowly fades from view.
This is why I predict an election in either November 2014 or November 2015.