Yet another group of voters are preparing to vote in general elections in the 15-nation Caribbean Community with authorities in St. Vincent naming Thursday, Nov. 5 as elections date, as a poll weary region braces for yet another contest in 2020.
Vincentians will vote just six days before electors in Belize cast their vote for a new government in what has turned out to be a record-breaking year for elections in the bloc, associate members and neighboring countries.
Already completed are Guyana and Suriname where incumbent governments were booted out, St. Kitts, Jamaica, Trinidad, Bermuda, Dutch St. Maarten, Anguilla and The Dominican Republic even as Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua has been floating political test balloons about calling an unlikely snap election. Associate member, Bermuda, held theirs at the beginning of October and now St. Vincent and Belize are to be added to the list of political contests this year.
In the past week, prime ministers Ralph Gonsalves and Dean Barrow have taken to the airwaves to announce dates for elections in St. Vincent and Belize respectively, adding pressure on governments to come up with electoral monitoring teams in the midst of the travel shutdown and restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In St. Vincent, PM Gonsalves and his Unity Labor Party (ULP) will be seeking a fifth consecutive term in office as they seek to keep out the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of opposition Leader Dr. Goodwin Friday.
Gonsalves has, amazingly, been governing the Eastern Caribbean nation of 110,000 people with a one seat majority for the past two elections. Polls show that the race could be tight once again with either party winning by slim parliamentary majority.
In Belize, retiring Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who presides over the lightly heralded bloc member nation, is preparing to hand over to Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, 42, as his United Democratic Party (UDP) comes up against the main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and two other smaller outfits on Nov. 11. Nomination day for those fighting for house seats is October 21. About 200,000 people are eligible to vote
Corruption, violent crime, allegations of nepotism against the ruling class and poverty are main campaigning issues, with the leading Amandala newspaper complaining that “far too many Belizeans still live in sub-standard houses, and far too many have little or no savings” in addition to the economy tanking in the current global circumstances.
If his party loses, this could be the end of a long run in office and the start of a protracted period in opposition for the ULP. Gonsalves, 74, nevertheless remains hopeful that he can keep out Dr. Friday, 61 and his outfit when polls close.
“I expect that these general elections will be held in a peaceful environment. The Unity Labor Party promises a clean, informative and uplifting campaign. I am now ready to rumble in earnest. This time, they must take their licks like a man,” he said as both sides stage motor caravans rather than full-fledged campaign rallies because of the coronavirus.