AN EX-SLP MINISTER AND PARLIAMENTARIAN LOOKS BACK INTROSPECTIVELY AT THE RECENT ELECTION RESULTS . . . AND ASKS "WHAT WENT WRONG"?
- BY HON FERGUSON JOHN OBE, LLB (HONS)
the perspective of the Saint Lucia Labour Party the just concluded General
Elections was a bombshell. The pollsters didn’t see it coming. The supporters
didn’t recognize it as it approached. Like in 2006, it came and it hit us hard.
2006 we had to demit office after two terms.
In 2016 we were kicked out after only one term - a term that could have
taken us well into 2017. In 2006 we had a background of nine years to feed off.
That was not the case in 2016, but coming into office in 2011, when we reversed
the results of 2006, the UWP gave us a lot to feed off. Few would deny that the administration of
2006-2011, with allegations of corruption, greed and associated malpractices,
did not deserve to lose.
having won, we did not accept that in those circumstances, we had under
performed. UWP candidates, whose names were prominent where allegations were
rife, either won, or lost by relatively small margins. By contrast, the administration of 2006 –
2011 did not have to address a single incident of corruption or associated
malpractices. The dominant issue seemed
to be VAT – a tax that is common the world over, and a tax that the UWP
themselves was committed to implementing.
where did we go wrong? I believe that not having appreciated that we under
performed in 2006, we allowed complacency to creep in, perhaps unnoticed. After
all, we had a majority that allowed us to ride roughshod over the opposition if
we chose to. So we continued working, admirably in the eyes of many, but with
obvious distractions as expected in the world of politics.
VAT was the dominant issue it is difficult to accept that VAT alone could have
done such damage. True we were told that the UWP would immediately reduce and
ultimately abolish it. We were never told by how much it would be reduced
initially, or when we could expect eventual abolition. But with an electorate littered with
illiteracy and steeped in tribalistic loyalty, it made its mark. Perhaps the education that preceded its
implementation or that was continued after its implementation was
inadequate. We should always remember
that every individual has one vote, and every effort should be made to engage
everyone, particularly in a case like VAT where everyone will be affected at
some point. To tell the rest of the world that VAT killed us is in my view
laughable. But it contributed; and we can only blame ourselves, that the pro -VAT
argument did not reverberate convincingly on the eardrums of all.
we begin to understand our politics we recognize that each party has a solid
base. Once the base is properly massaged, we expect it to remain solid or
increase. Recent results invite us to revisit that view. It may well be that our base was not being
properly massaged. Massaging in my view does not necessarily mean granting
favours or ensuring particular individuals being placed in advantageous
positions. It means visiting the base at
acceptable intervals, demonstrating our appreciation for their efforts,
informing them of opportunities for progressing, giving them the arguments that
allow them to defend the party and its policies at appropriate times, and
ensuring that they are aware of developments as they occur.
course factors beyond our control can lead to erosion. I believe however if the
base is properly massaged whatever the influences, erosion will be
minimal. The Labour Party must now
consider whether too much erosion has occurred and why. While UWP candidates were winning by margins
exceeding one thousand votes our best result came with a margin of six hundred and
twenty votes, in a seat that we last won with a majority of over a thousand
votes. Seats we expected to win by over
a thousand votes were either lost or barely won.
talk about “swing”. I can understand swings
that eat into our base but leave us visible.
But this one was a hurricane that left us homeless. It is not an easy task finding the pieces and
rebuilding. I trust we can see the lessons here that must be learnt.
through the constituencies long before election was called. I detected a common
cry: new entrants or what someone calls
“soft converts” were being well massaged at the expense of proven
stalwarts. I clearly remember one
stalwart lamenting the fact that a soft convert had got a decent contract and
promptly subcontracted it to his “old friends” Stalwarts are then expected to
sit idly by and pretend to be unaffected.
That cannot contribute to maintaining a base. It doesn’t mean that there
must be blatant discrimination. It simply means that we cannot afford to ignore
have suggested that people just wanted Kenny out. If that be the case one ought
to be able to identify that act or series of acts that so offended the nation
that the nation reacted so vociferously. I daresay, that where these exist, the
writing on the wall would be so legible, the partially sighted would have no
difficulty reading it. But we didn’t see
leader is bound to make unpopular decisions at some point. Many will accept the necessity recognizing
that it may well be in the best interest of the country. Many will use it to advance their personal
interest. The conscientious will say it is better to do what is right rather
than what is expedient. But the nature
of our society is such that where what is right is what is done, the
consequences may not flatter us.
what was so offensive about Kenny’s leadership?
I have often wondered why politicians wish to remain in office beyond a
certain period particularly in societies like ours where it seems to be fair
game to insult and even assault the politician.
From the politician’s perspective it is that thankless task that
necessitates much sacrifice and can lead to near or total bankruptcy. But to
many persons the politician is responsible for every ill that emerges while he
is in office. To most persons the Prime
Minister is the chief culprit. Whatever
the problem, whatever the source, rightly or wrongly, he is the cause. How long should one be allowed to carry that
do people get tired of seeing the same faces in office or hearing or repeating
the same names. It gets to a point where the most insignificant incident is
interpreted as a disaster. I clearly
remember just before retiring from politics, someone said to me he would not be
voting for me again because I had made enough money and should give someone
else a chance.
I couldn’t believe the reasoning. I knew politics had done nothing to enhance
my finances. In fact, the opposite was
true. But this constituent actually
believed his vote had somehow enriched me. That kind of thinking together with
the stress and disadvantages that come with politics clearly suggest that we
should always keep an eye on the clock.
I see it Kenny Anthony has had a long and distinguished career as Political
Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party and Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. He has earned the respect of leaders
regionally and internationally. Saint
Lucia can be proud that he was with us when we needed him. I would have preferred if he had bowed out in
glory but I think he left it late. But
that does not devalue his worth. Knowing
when to go has always been difficult to determine. Mohammed Ali “The Greatest” got it wrong when
he returned to the ring in 1980. He
remains the greatest. Bless his
soul. Margaret Thatcher “The Iron Lady”
fell after she too got it wrong. Many
more can be named.
wave of protest reflected in the ballot boxes up and down the country was not only
because of VAT or unemployment. VAT is likely
to be here for the next five years.
There will not be a dramatic fall in unemployment in a hurry, because of
anything the new government does. People
wanted change, and they voted for change. In so doing they voted “against”
rather than “for”.
to me, best explains why in Vieux Fort North a relative unknown shows up two
weeks before election day and literally frightens the incumbent in what was
considered a very safe Labour seat. The same can be said in Dennery North. In Choiseul/Saltibus, I am convinced that
ninety per cent of the people who voted UWP did not know their candidate. They simply voted against the incumbent.
where incumbents seemed to had worked their seats impressively, the results
were effectively a slap in the face. Impressive projects completed or in progress,
did not impress. The individual need for
more spending power was of greater concern.
That vote against the Labour Party demands scientific analysis. It must
be understood and addressed.
has been cited as one of the reasons we lost.
It is quite obvious that a lot of money was spent. But I don’t know of
any General Elections where a lot of money wasn’t spent. Campaign Financing is
an issue in every democracy. Where it is
regulated it is difficult to police. During a campaign, all parties with the
intention of persuading people to vote for their party, spend huge sums. Giving the head of a household a fair sum in
the hope that every voter in that household would support the party is not
unheard of. Sad but true.
is particularly offensive is that on Election Day, money is paid to voters in
an attempt to have them change their presumed allegiance. While risky, it is known to bear fruit. I do
not believe however that these Election Day payments wherever they occurred
would have made any difference. Of the eleven seats that were captured, six
seats were won with majorities exceeding one thousand votes. Four had majorities exceeding three hundred
and the other had a majority of one hundred and forty nine. I find it difficult to accept that any
Election Day payments could have significantly influenced these figures.
worry is the fact that some voters who find it difficult to betray their
allegiance suddenly disappeared on polling day.
Reports suggest that some bus drivers as well as a number of individuals,
known to be committed to the Labour party, became invisible on voting day. There is reason to believe that in most if
not all cases they were paid to become invisible. Indeed worrying, but it begs the question:
how solid is the base? While that may have contaminated the figures, I don’t
believe it influenced the eventual outcome.
political party must undertake periodic review and at some point radical change.
Kenny Anthony has led the St Lucia Labour Party from 1996. His era is now over.
This defeat presents an opportunity not just for post mortems and papering over
cracks, but for a complete overhaul and radical change. That process must begin
now. We now have an opposition that can constructively challenge the
Government. We must now work towards a
Government that the opposition cannot challenge.
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