OUR CARIBBEAN: Differences for polls in Haiti, SVG
ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY is generally recognised as the foundation on which good governance is built with citizens expecting their basic social, economic and political rights to be respected in an environment of the rule of law.
Expectations are so often dashed that citizens in various countries have become cynical and even detached from the electoral process.
Haiti, mired in endemic poverty and devastated by natural and man-made disasters, stands in this first decade of the 21st century as a sad reference on the irrelevance of electoral democracy in that oldest independent nation in the Caribbean-Latin American region.
Within 15 days of each other Haiti and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) – both member countries of the Caribbean Community – will be holding general elections. It has become the norm for regional and international observers to monitor the conduct of elections in our region.
Understandably the coming December 13 poll for a 15-member House of Assembly in St Vincent and the Grenadines by no means excite the level of interest as that for Haiti’s presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28.
Indeed, there are reputable agencies and organisations which regularly monitor developments in Haiti and remain committed to alerting the international community to the horrific sufferings of the Haitian people. These agencies are questioning of the relevance of the current electioneering campaign and at a time of frightening cholera epidemic.
Since the unprecedented earthquake disaster of last January what passes for a government in Port-au-Prince is but a caricature of an elected administration that cannot objectively be blamed for the devastation that resulted.
There are friends of Haiti who are not only critical of the electoral commission but remain deeply concerned about the integrity of the mandate to be delivered by an electorate suffocating from natural disasters and coping the heart-wrenching scenes of human tragedies
By comparison, tranquilty prevails for the general election in St Vincent and the Grenadines, although the widespread damage and destruction – primarily in the agricultural and housing sectors – from Hurricane Tomas would be an issue for the campaign in terms of commitment for “recovery”
The incumbent Unity Labour Party of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, is looking forward to a third consecutive term and would have been encouraged by a most recent poll (details yet to be revealed), as disclosed by a credible regional pollster.
For his part, Arnhim Eustace, leader of the New Democratic Party, having defeated the government’s bid for a new constitution at a referendum a year ago and now more energised, is fully aware that defeat for his party on December 13 could be politically fatal for his leadership.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.