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PEOPLE & THINGS: Anticipating Election 2018

Peter W. Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: Anticipating Election 2018

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Although the 2018 election is some four years away, it is not inappropriate to consider the scenarios possible in the election that is constitutionally due by 2018. 
There are several ways in which this analysis can be approached; however, CADRES is partial to the “swing analysis” which we have found to be the most effective predictor of likely political success in the past. It is perhaps important first to simply define the concept of electoral swing which is the net improvement in the fortunes of a candidate at the local level or political party at the national level.
This basic principle was relied upon to project the likely outcome of the last election and while some analysts might yet be sceptical, it is important to stress that the swing analysis was vindicated in several regards. The most significant of these was the fact that our analysis suggested that in 2013 there would be a negative swing away from the DLP which we estimated to range between 3 per cent and 7 per cent (with a margin of error of +/-5 per cent).
In actuality this estimation was correct as the DLP’s negative swing of 1.3 per cent in the election confirmed and while the DLP did well to contain the negative swing, the fact is that the swing was still negative to the DLP and as such only the DLP lost seats.
In a way that is consistent with the swing analysis trends. The DLP did not gain any new seats, one of the core swing analysis features that CADRES has promoted, and while the DLP did gain substantial support in several constituencies, it was not able to gain sufficient new support in any constituency held by the BLP to convert it.
The other notable consideration of the 2013 election is that among the five seats that the DLP lost the average negative swing was -5 per cent which was well above the national -1 per cent but within the margins established by the “biggest loser” analysis (September 2012).
That analysis reviewed the historical losses by political parties and noted record swings in 1999 and 1994 of an additional -11 per cent on top of what the political party achieved at the national level. In this instance the highest additional swing occurred in St George South (-8 per cent) which means that the DLP’s candidate lost an additional -7 per cent which is not abnormal.
As such it is therefore appropriate to consider the DLP’s prospects for 2018 based on similar considerations to those which guided the 2013 analysis.
One such perspective is presented in the accompanying chart (Fig. 1 pictured)  which demonstrates that St Michael Central is now the DLP’s weakest seat, while St John is still its strongest.
There is no way to know what level of swing can be anticipated in 2018 (or whenever the election is called) but one can be quite certain that the swing will be negative to the DLP which will likely lose seats. The DLP now holds 16 seats and among these 11 are below -10 per cent and would therefore be considered vulnerable in the context of any normal election that is held by 2018.
Needless to say that election will be impacted by factors that cannot yet be assessed and it might yet be a contest that is even more peculiar than the 2013 election. It is nonetheless useful to consider, even at this early stage the DLP’s strongest and weakest seats. 
Peter W. Wickham ([email protected]) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).