Election observers were hard pressed last year to scramble from one country to the next to monitor general elections in a plethora of countries across the Caribbean Community and its neighbors in spite of the challenges posed by shuttered airports from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as grounded flights.
But from all appearances, the situation is threatening to repeat itself in 2021 with elections scheduled to take place in several nations this year even as a number of countries are in various forms of lockdown or have severely restricted economic and activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Turks and Caicos will vote on Friday.
Among the larger ones, the Cayman Islands is getting ready to vote on April 14, one month earlier than planned to head off what officials say could be unwanted parliamentary and social instability at this time.
Gov. Martyn Roper dissolved the island’s legislature over the weekend, paving the way for a short campaign period. Candidates will be presented to the public on nomination day on March 1 even as the opposition is railing against the administration of Premier Alden McLaughlin for cutting short the campaigning time.
The premier of the very stable but idyllic tourism haven argues that efforts by the opposition to remove Speaker Mckeeva Bush could lead to parliamentary and political instability so he has decided to end the controversy by naming an election date, dissolving parliament and giving voters a chance to elect a new team.
In nearby The Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis seems set to call general elections a year ahead of schedule to both catch the opposition off guard and to win a new mandate before the economic situation worsens owing to the pandemic. The island has taken a beating from grounded airlines, large numbers of cruise ships in ports, the closure of major hotels, resorts and casinos and marine spots.
At the start of this week, authorities opened several voter registration centers as the elections commission ramps up preparations for elections not due until next year but will most likely be held by the first half of this year.
The commission thinks it can capture an additional 10% of new voters to add to the 187,000 already on official registers.
On Monday, the Nassau Guardian newspaper reported that Minnis’ Free National Movement (FNM) has produced an election booklet with party achievements even asking supporters for “votes, support and prayers. As we move in a post-Dorian (hurricane) and COVID era, I am asking for your vote, your support and your prayers. While there is still more work to be done, I am proud of all we have accomplished and am looking forward to accomplishing much more.”
Other elections are on the cards this year should be held in St. Lucia, The Turks and Caicos Islands and in the Dutch Antellian islands of Aruba and Curacao.
A record-breaking year for general elections in 2020 saw polls being held in Guyana, St. Kitts, Suriname, Trinidad, Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Belize, St. Vincent, Dutch St. Maarten and Anguilla.
The bloc of nations will likely send observers to The Bahamas and St. Lucia, both of which are full members of Caricom. The others like The Cayman Islands and The Turks and Caicos are mostly associate members and are British dependencies and will not likely attract monitors from the 15-nation bloc even as airline and covid quarantine problems loom.
Of those out of the blocs this year, voters in the Turks and Caicos will face the polls first on February 19.
“Our best years are still ahead of us, it is time for you to restore this faith that you have shown. We shall ride the storm and conquer the pandemic. I stand here tonight, unafraid, undoubted. I come to you as a daughter and a sister, a mother and an aunt and because of what you have made me a leader,” Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson said while announcing the date recently.