St Lucia revisited
As is the case with the previous St Lucia article, it is useful to refer to the People & Things November 14, 2007 article which argued that Dr Kenny Anthony should “easily” recapture the government whenever the next election was called and moreover that Sir John Compton essentially “condemned” the United Workers’ Party (UWP) for several years by returning to active politics.
The first issue that presents itself therefore is the extent to which Dr Anthony “easily” won the 2011 election. The appended data summary helps to answer this question by demonstrating that Dr Anthony’s effort resulted in a three per cent swing towards the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP), which translated to an 11-seat victory in their 17-seat Parliament.
In the books of some slightly-less-demanding commentators this appears to be a landslide since he almost doubled his seat count from the 2006 election.
Although I am inclined to differ on the landslide perspective, it is noteworthy that an unpublished CADRES poll which was conducted in September of 2010 indicated that the SLP was already ahead of the UWP, although the SLP’s swing was at that time only one per cent.NOW THAT THE DUST HAS SETTLED on last year’s penultimate Caribbean election and the initial analyses have been concluded, it is a good time to return to the political scene in St Lucia for a more rigorous examination of the outcome of that election.
As was the case in 2011, the UWP’s negative swing was greater than the SLP’s 2010 positive swing which confirms that on both occasions the UWP’s defeat was primarily of its own making, which is consistent with my 2006 assessment that this organisation has some issues that the 2006 victory camouflaged.
The 2010 poll was followed by several major political events, not least of which was Hurricane Thomas, which should, theoretically, have helped the UWP win. The fact that Dr Anthony prevailed and improved on the swing prediction made
by CADRES in 2010 demonstrates that
the St Lucian electorate determined Prime Minister Stephenson King’s fate long before
the election and in this regard Prime Minister Anthony’s win did appear to be “easy”.
This “easy” thesis is also supported by the fact that Anthony admitted that he ran the election on a “shoestring” budget and still prevailed. It is perhaps therefore also possible to conclude that King did well to minimise the swing at -4 per cent (twice what it was in September 2010).
However, this author would still argue
that he is a liability that the UWP needs to relieve itself of eventually if it is to rebuild.
This should perhaps
be a separate discussion, but one interesting
prospect presented herself in Compton’s old seat and we should watch this young and bright
prospect in St Lucia’s leadership contests.
I would hasten to argue that the data demonstrates that Anthony could just as easily lose the government in five years (presuming that he attempts
a fourth term) if he does not tread cautiously.
It is ironic that after the 2006 election I noted that a one per cent swing would remove the UWP from office and the situation is no different now since a similar one per cent swing away from the SLP would remove it from office.
This SLP administration is therefore precariously perched at the national level with a corresponding weakness at the local
level with eight of its 11 seats within a vulnerable swing range.
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that some of the leadership issues that plagued Dr Anthony in the past can continue to be problematic as he is now in his third term as prime minister and questions will again emerge regarding his intention
to either contest future elections or identify
a replacement with suitable credentials.
Specifics aside, this scenario in St Lucia appears to be part of a regional trend where governments are emerging which appear to be numerically strong but are surprisingly weak on account of the quantity
of seats that are within a swing range that is easily achievable. In St Lucia the SLP is vulnerable to a one per cent swing; which is the same that can be
said for Grenada’s National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In Barbados the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) would be vulnerable to three per cent and, ironically, this is the same swing that PM Portia Simpson-Miller’s Jamaica labour Party (JLP) is vulnerable to, following the December 2011 election. In all of these islands the governments are vulnerable to minor shocks that perhaps cannot be easily avoided in this economic environment.
In conclusion, there are some other specific lessons that were taught by the
St Lucia contest that are worthy of mention and the most important of these is based on the outcome
in Sir John’s old seat
of Micoud North.
His daughter’s candidacy there created the expectation in the minds of some that the Compton name would have a greater impact than the SLP there.
The outcome was not
a surprise to this author, who always stresses the primacy of the party in these issues; however, it has again proven that the days of independents, no matter how distinguished, are over.
There were some other “troublesome” UWP races which generated interest, such as the outcome in Castries Central, where Richard Frederick narrowly triumphed. However, his individual negative swing was twice that of his party and speaks volumes about his personal popularity.
Frederick’s other troublesome colleagues allen Chastenet and Rufus Bousquet were not as lucky and both lost, although the battles were equally tight.
In Soufriere Chastenet did reasonably well, growing his support by two percentage points, which ran counter to his party that lost four per cent and in Choiseul Bousquet’s performance was also not half bad considering that his support only dipped
by one per cent.
• Peter W. Wickham ([email protected]
is a political consultant
and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).