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St. Lucians vote for a new government on Monday

By Peter Richards

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – St. Lucian go to the polls on Monday to elect a new government in an election that the only published poll says is too close to call.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, whose ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has already dismissed the findings of the poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services INC (CADRES), called the election after four and a half years in office.

Anthony-Chastanet
SLP Leader Dr. Kenny Anthony (left) and UWP Leader Allan Chastanet (Right) on the political campaign

“I have decided in the interest of our country to call the general election several months ahead of its due date to ensure peace, stability and certainty in our country and its affairs,” Anthony said then.

CADRES, which has successfully predicted the outcome of general elections in some Caribbean countries, said that the election is a “statistical dead heat” between the SLP and its challenger, the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP).

There are 39 candidates facing the electorate, but only the SLP and the UWP have nominated candidates for all 17 seats.

CADRES said that the opinion poll, conducted between May 20 and 23 in all 17 constituencies, showed a close race between the two parties. It said that the poll, with a margin of plus or minus five per cent, found that “at this time a statistical dead-heat between the governing SLP and the opposition UWP with the SLP recording 34 per cent and the UWP securing 33 per cent of the committed vote share”.

In the last general election held in 2011, the SLP won 11 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the UWP.

Anthony is confident that the SLP has done enough over the last 54 months to be re-elected, saying “never has a government had to do so much with so little and we have delivered.

“Our economy has rebounded, and the positive growth of 2015 is set to continue in the years ahead. We have skilfully restructured our economy away from a total reliance on bananas to a more diversified platform of tourism, agriculture, services, construction, manufacturing and promising new sectors like energy and information technology”.

Anthony said that his government has been able to close the fiscal deficit and stopped the rapid increase in debt to gross domestic product (GDP).

But no so, says Allen Chastanet, an economist and former tourism minister, who is leading the UWP into a general election for the first time.

“Since 2011, St. Lucia has been reeling under the regressive policies and programmes of the St. Lucia Labour Party,” he said, noting that the ruling party has failed to learn the important lesson of the recession “that you cannot spend what you have not generated and in doing so racked up the national debt to dangerous levels”.

Chastanet said that the government has made St. Lucians dependent on hand-outs and introduced “more austerity measures that are crippling the economy and increasing poverty throughout St. Lucia.

“The strategy obviously is to make voters more dependent on the government for desperately-needed “survival gifts” as a means of controlling them.

The Electoral Department has said that 160, 465 people are eligible to cast ballots at the 430 polling stations scattered across the island. In the last elections, there were 150,996 voters with the turnout being 56.84 per cent or 85, 821 voters.

For the first time in its political history, St. Lucia allowed early voting that Chief Elections Officer, Gaspard Jn Baptiste said would free up polling day workers to carry out their functions with minimum disruption.

“It is the first time we are having advanced voting for persons…like prison officers, the Electoral Commission. The reason is we want to free up, especially the poll workers, on Monday so that they will be able to carry out their duties without interruptions,” he said.

Jn. Baptise said that his department is prepared for Monday’s activities ever since the the election budget was prepared last year.

“We have been in a state of anticipation and expectation and so we are quite prepared fo the general election”.

However, unlike previous occasions when international observers had been invited to monitor the elections, this time around, this is not the case.

“Well that has been the norm but for this year, the Electoral Department has not heard anything regarding observers and we are still awaiting,” he said, hoping that as in some cases “they come in very late”.

The campaign, which in the main, has been violent free, was a mere 14 days, the first time in the island’s history that the campaign did not at least last 21 days.

The Voice newspaper, the oldest publication on the island, said that the campaign has robbed the electorate of an opportunity to effectively review the promises made by the two parties ahead of casting their ballot on Monday.

“”…there has been no opportunity for any kind of in-depth articulation of the plans of the parties. Public meetings and rallies still do not offer much by way of structured and coherent delivery of ideas,” the paper said in an editorial, noting that one week before the elections there were no manifestoes available to the public even from the ruling SLP that “would have had the advantage of knowing the election date before everyone else.

“But St. Lucians do not seem to care too much; they are happy for the brevity of the campaign and want this election over and done with,” the paper added.

When the parties released their 70-odd page document this week, they both promised to improve the economy, provide housing, deal with the unemployment, further develop the tourism, health, agricultural sectors as well as deal with national security.

“The UWP has also drawn up plans to reinforce the principles and institutions of good governance. Ordinary people will be given individual and collective responsibility for the pursuit of justice. In particular they will advocate for the fair distribution and safe enjoyment of the wealth that is jointly created in St. Lucia,” Chastanet said.

For his part, Anthony said the proposals in his party’s manifesto “are practical and are rooted in a profound understanding of our people, our culture and the needs of our country.

“They come from a party that has proven its sincerity and its capacity to deliver. They are made by a  group of men and women who have demonstrated their integrity and honesty and their commitment to putting the country and people before self,” he added.

The election is the 10th since the island attained political independence from Britain in 1979 and the 17th since attaining adult suffrage in 1951,

In her Throne speech to the last Parliament last month, Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy, said the country had achieved a “mature and stable democracy” and that the election “still remains the fundamental expression of each citizen’s political will.

“As such I urge all eligible voters to exercise their franchise, not only in the interest of some perceived personal gain, but in the interest of our collective and common domination,” she added.

The two main political parties are held separate rallies on Saturday in a bid to woe undecided voters and in the case of the UWP, will stage a whistle stop motorcade on Sunday.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Peter Richards

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – St. Lucian go to the polls on Monday to elect a new government in an election that the only published poll says is too close to call.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, whose ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has already dismissed the findings of the poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services INC (CADRES), called the election after four and a half years in office.

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Anthony-Chastanet
SLP Leader Dr. Kenny Anthony (left) and UWP Leader Allan Chastanet (Right) on the political campaign

“I have decided in the interest of our country to call the general election several months ahead of its due date to ensure peace, stability and certainty in our country and its affairs,” Anthony said then.

CADRES, which has successfully predicted the outcome of general elections in some Caribbean countries, said that the election is a “statistical dead heat” between the SLP and its challenger, the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP).

There are 39 candidates facing the electorate, but only the SLP and the UWP have nominated candidates for all 17 seats.

CADRES said that the opinion poll, conducted between May 20 and 23 in all 17 constituencies, showed a close race between the two parties. It said that the poll, with a margin of plus or minus five per cent, found that “at this time a statistical dead-heat between the governing SLP and the opposition UWP with the SLP recording 34 per cent and the UWP securing 33 per cent of the committed vote share”.

In the last general election held in 2011, the SLP won 11 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the UWP.

Anthony is confident that the SLP has done enough over the last 54 months to be re-elected, saying “never has a government had to do so much with so little and we have delivered.

“Our economy has rebounded, and the positive growth of 2015 is set to continue in the years ahead. We have skilfully restructured our economy away from a total reliance on bananas to a more diversified platform of tourism, agriculture, services, construction, manufacturing and promising new sectors like energy and information technology”.

Anthony said that his government has been able to close the fiscal deficit and stopped the rapid increase in debt to gross domestic product (GDP).

But no so, says Allen Chastanet, an economist and former tourism minister, who is leading the UWP into a general election for the first time.

“Since 2011, St. Lucia has been reeling under the regressive policies and programmes of the St. Lucia Labour Party,” he said, noting that the ruling party has failed to learn the important lesson of the recession “that you cannot spend what you have not generated and in doing so racked up the national debt to dangerous levels”.

Chastanet said that the government has made St. Lucians dependent on hand-outs and introduced “more austerity measures that are crippling the economy and increasing poverty throughout St. Lucia.

“The strategy obviously is to make voters more dependent on the government for desperately-needed “survival gifts” as a means of controlling them.

The Electoral Department has said that 160, 465 people are eligible to cast ballots at the 430 polling stations scattered across the island. In the last elections, there were 150,996 voters with the turnout being 56.84 per cent or 85, 821 voters.

For the first time in its political history, St. Lucia allowed early voting that Chief Elections Officer, Gaspard Jn Baptiste said would free up polling day workers to carry out their functions with minimum disruption.

“It is the first time we are having advanced voting for persons…like prison officers, the Electoral Commission. The reason is we want to free up, especially the poll workers, on Monday so that they will be able to carry out their duties without interruptions,” he said.

Jn. Baptise said that his department is prepared for Monday’s activities ever since the the election budget was prepared last year.

“We have been in a state of anticipation and expectation and so we are quite prepared fo the general election”.

However, unlike previous occasions when international observers had been invited to monitor the elections, this time around, this is not the case.

“Well that has been the norm but for this year, the Electoral Department has not heard anything regarding observers and we are still awaiting,” he said, hoping that as in some cases “they come in very late”.

The campaign, which in the main, has been violent free, was a mere 14 days, the first time in the island’s history that the campaign did not at least last 21 days.

The Voice newspaper, the oldest publication on the island, said that the campaign has robbed the electorate of an opportunity to effectively review the promises made by the two parties ahead of casting their ballot on Monday.

“”…there has been no opportunity for any kind of in-depth articulation of the plans of the parties. Public meetings and rallies still do not offer much by way of structured and coherent delivery of ideas,” the paper said in an editorial, noting that one week before the elections there were no manifestoes available to the public even from the ruling SLP that “would have had the advantage of knowing the election date before everyone else.

“But St. Lucians do not seem to care too much; they are happy for the brevity of the campaign and want this election over and done with,” the paper added.

When the parties released their 70-odd page document this week, they both promised to improve the economy, provide housing, deal with the unemployment, further develop the tourism, health, agricultural sectors as well as deal with national security.

“The UWP has also drawn up plans to reinforce the principles and institutions of good governance. Ordinary people will be given individual and collective responsibility for the pursuit of justice. In particular they will advocate for the fair distribution and safe enjoyment of the wealth that is jointly created in St. Lucia,” Chastanet said.

For his part, Anthony said the proposals in his party’s manifesto “are practical and are rooted in a profound understanding of our people, our culture and the needs of our country.

“They come from a party that has proven its sincerity and its capacity to deliver. They are made by a  group of men and women who have demonstrated their integrity and honesty and their commitment to putting the country and people before self,” he added.

The election is the 10th since the island attained political independence from Britain in 1979 and the 17th since attaining adult suffrage in 1951,

In her Throne speech to the last Parliament last month, Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy, said the country had achieved a “mature and stable democracy” and that the election “still remains the fundamental expression of each citizen’s political will.

“As such I urge all eligible voters to exercise their franchise, not only in the interest of some perceived personal gain, but in the interest of our collective and common domination,” she added.

The two main political parties are held separate rallies on Saturday in a bid to woe undecided voters and in the case of the UWP, will stage a whistle stop motorcade on Sunday.