Null and void
Despite the pronouncements of the Organization of American States (OAS) observers, president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Arnhim Eustace, wants the results of the December 13 general elections declared null and void.
“An NDP win was clear as day to everyone who that had eyes to see; but somehow I believe that we have been cheated out of a brighter future,” Eustace said in a radio broadcast on Tuesday night.
In his first public statement since leading his party to a third straight loss against the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), Eustace said the NDP “will aggressively pursue all legal actions and international redress” to have the elections “dismissed as unfair, unjust, and undemocratic; and thus null and void.
“These elections have not been free and fair; let me make that very clear,” he told radio listeners.
The ULP won eight of the 15 parliamentary seats while the NDP won seven, four more than it held in the last two Parliaments.
The OAS, in a preliminary statement, said “the election was conducted with minimal incidents and complied with international standards for inclusiveness and transparency”.
“The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have once again demonstrated their commitment to democracy in a peaceful manner,” said OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.
But Eustace said that “the conspiracy to defraud the electorate seems to run deeper and much deeper than it first meets the eye.
“Evidence suggests widespread and systematic irregularities that were designed to affect the outcome of the elections,” he said, adding the NDP “will accept the results with good grace and calm if this result would really be adjudged to reflect the will of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
The former prime minister, who retained his East Kingstown seat for a fourth time since 1998, said that after assessing the statistical validity of the results against polling data leading up to and during these elections, “there is now cause for serious concern”
The NDP is especially concerned about the result of two constituencies won by the ULP.
Eustace did not identify the constituencies but said they both “seem to indicate irregularities of one kind or another”.
The ULP had its narrowest margins of victory in West St. George and Central Leeward, which it won by 122 and 155 votes, respectively.
“Before the elections, the current prime minister bragged that he will win by any means necessary. Sadly, I believe that there may be evidence to suggest that he followed through with his threat at the expense of our much treasured, much cherished democracy,” Eustace said.
He said that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, financed by Venezuela, Libya, Iran, and Cuba, may have been “allowed to impose the kind of dictatorship that his pay masters wanted all along”.
Eustace, however, said his party “will not take any evidence of cheating lying down”, adding that the NDP will not accept the results if there is “further compelling evidence … of election rigging or electoral inconsistencies in any form.
“We will aggressively pursue all legal actions and international redress to have these elections dismissed as unfair, unjust, and undemocratic and thus null and void,” Eustace said.
He said that there were already several constituencies where there was enough evidence of “actions that have violated” the Representation of the People’s Act.
Eustace said lawyers for the opposition party “will be reaching out to the OAS, CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and the wider international community to scrutinize every element of these elections.
“Where we find criminality, we will pursue prosecution immediately with the full force of international law,” he said.
The NDP will also file election petitions challenging the returns of some Members of Parliament “on the grounds of fraud, breach of the Representation of the People’s Act and the election laws,” Eustace said, adding “these elections have been unfair.”
He said “independent volunteer lawyers, who are experts in those questions we face, and who were on the ground” on Election Day are considering criminal complaints against persons who attempted to vote twice or outside their constituencies.
Eustace said the NDP “will pursue irregularities and inconsistencies and any evidence that suggests fraud, we will spare no effort in pursing the truth.
“We will find the guilty and we will bring our evidence in the open. We will then bring any fraudsters to justice,” he said.
“Don’t for one minute think that we have not picked up the scent of cheating. We have! We will follow this scent wherever it leads and we will find you and we will hold you to account in a court of law,” Eustace said.
“In the meantime, we will show restraint. We will remain calm and we will conduct ourselves with honour and integrity. Don’t think for a moment that this matter is over, Prime Minister Gonsalves. This is just the beginning.”
Eustace said that in the meantime, the country “will continue under a ULP that has failed in every department of government”, adding that his campaign promise of hundreds of millions in private investment and tens of thousands of jobs will be on hold.
Eustace had said that the investment would only come if the NDP is elected to office.
“Today, this country continues to lurch further into economic disaster. Ralph Gonsalves will continue to build massive debts to pay the civil servants each month let alone the massive loans which this country now owes across the board,” he said.
Gonsalves will be sworn in on Wednesday for a third consecutive term as head of the government in this Eastern Caribbean nation. He has already promised to work with everyone in the development of the country and has called on all political parties to put aside their differences now that the election is over.
Political analyst Jomo Thomas said Gonsalves and the the ULP will be “governing on a razor’s edge”.
According to the preliminary results, the ULP got 27,648 votes or 51.61 per cent of the popular votes while the NDP received 26,231 votes or 47.78 per cent. The Green Party got 123 votes or 0.21 per cent.
Eustace, during his address, said he was speaking as the leader of the “largest possible and the most formidable opposition”, adding that it “constituted of men, though relatively young, tested and proven…
“It is my belief, and, I am certain, the belief of the people of this country, that we would have at this time an NDP administration in government. Unfortunately, despite our tremendous effort, this is not the case,” he said.
“…I have no doubt the vast majority of Vincentians took part in the election in the hope that their voice would be heard, that their vote would count, that democracy would prevails. However, I am deeply worried that this was not the case, regardless to what some observers may say,” Eustace said. (CMC)