Don’t call snap elections in the Caribbean without being assured of your fate. For the second time in less than two months, a regional government has been evicted from office after calling snap elections years ahead of their constitutional due date.
In the case of Prime Minister Timothy Harris of the St. Kitts-Nevis federation, he was forced to do so after his three-party coalition had collapsed back in May in the midst of public bickering linked to allegations of a dictatorial management style by the PM and his alleged light regard for the views of other partners.
Harris had fired six of his rebellious cabinet colleagues, replaced them with others, asked the governor to dissolve parliament and named Aug. 5th as election date, three years ahead of schedule, thinking he would be returned to office, even with a reduced majority. The Team Unity coalition had won nine of the 11 parliamentary seats back in 2020 and had also worked with a reasonable majority after defeating the venerable St. Kitts Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) in 2015 after 20 consecutive years in power.
When elections results were announced on Saturday morning, more than 12 hours after polling stations had closed, it had emerged that Harris would no longer be prime minister, as his People’s Labor Party (PLP) had only won a single of the 11 seats on offer. His defeat made way for the SKNLP to make a grand return to office, picking up six of the 11 seats as citizens apparently voted for governmental stability. Harris won his constituency and might now not even be opposition leader as the People’s Action Movement (PAM), the third major player in the race, also picked up a single seat.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada named June 23 as election date, a year ahead of its due date. He had calculated that he would catch the opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) off guard. Heading into the polls having won all 15 seats in March of 2108, a confident Mitchell, 75, had said he would retire after winning his last elections.
But voters chose the NDC of attorney Dickon Mitchell, 44, sweeping the older Mitchell out of power, giving the NDC nine of the 15 seats and setting the stage for Mitchell’s impending retirement.
As Grenada settles into a new government and a new political era, Cuban-trained medical doctor Terrence Drew was at the weekend sworn in as prime minister of St. Kitts-Nevis. He immediately declared Monday as a holiday and said he would name a full cabinet this week.
“I fully recognize that the office of prime minister is one of service,” said Drew. “I also recognize that it is an office which I do not own but I am at the desk of the people. I vow to work closely with my cabinet colleagues, with those who are in other positions in government and our citizens of St. Kitts-Nevis so that whatever issues there are we can solve them.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados rode on the enthusiasm of Barbados becoming a republic in November and called snap general elections in December to take advantage of a divided and poorly funded opposition. Her labor party won all 30 seats, one more than the results of the 2018 polls, leaving the Eastern Caribbean island nation without a viable opposition for a second parliamentary term in living memory.
In the wake of Mottley’s sweeping victory in nearby Barbados, Antigua’s Gaston Browne had begun to publicly toy with the idea of also calling snap elections but was advised against it and will likely do so before the deadline of next March.