CARIBBEAN: Vincentians vote today

By CMC

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CMC — More than 80 thousand people are eligible to vote in the general election here today with both the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) confident that they will get the nod from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, 69, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he is “very confident” that the party would “significantly increase” the one-seat margin it enjoyed in the last Parliament.

“I expect that the Unity Labour Party will win the elections at some level comfortably and overwhelmingly. The anecdotal evidence on the ground points to a big ULP victory,” he said noting that the recent poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) pointed to a victory for his party.

“Which means we can conceivably win all seats on the mainland,” he added.

But Arnhim Eustace, 70, who is seeking to prevent himself from making history by failing to win four consecutive general elections here, said that his party’s internal polls show it winning as many as 11 of the 15 seats at stake in the election.

“Well our polls say 11,” he said, adding, “I am pretty confident about the results.”

The two parties have been mounting impressive election rallies across the island where the CADRES poll conducted in late November found that as many as 58 per cent of the respondents said the “issues of greatest concern” to them this election are jobs, employment, the cost of living and the economy.

Eustace believes that the population has “had enough” with the ULP, adding, “They have seen the outcome of their policies and programmes.

“In the last seven years we have had four consecutive years of negative growth and three years of very low growth, unemployment has skyrocketed, so has crime,” he told CMC, adding, “Unemployment continues to rise and more and more people have to be supported by the state.

“I think that has pushed a number of people in our direction. I think it is fair to say, I can feel it on the ground that the public response to us is so far better than it ever was and I believe that this is quite a clear signal of change,” said the economist, who in 2000 succeeded Sir James Mitchell the leader of the NDP, and led it into defeat ever since the elections of 2001.

But Gonsalves said his administration’s performance speaks for itself and should it be returned to power today, it would continue with a number of socio-economic policies, including the completion of the EC$279 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) Argyle International Airport next year.

“It is not like we are in the opposition to say these are the things we will be doing during the first 100 days. That’s usually an opposition coming into office.

“We have a number of initiatives which are at various stages of advancement; opening the Argyle International Airport, building the geothermal plant, a new city at the ET Joshua airport site, a new cruise ship port… consolidating the education and health and wellness revolutions and housing,” Gonsalves told CMC.

He said his new administration would also be involved in creating jobs, rehabilitating the nation’s road network “because we have legacy from the Argyle airport to put into the road building programme and we have resources put aside from a number of agencies.”

The Electoral Department said that 9,527 people who are registered to vote, registered between the period January 1, 2011 and November 23 this year. Political observers said many are first time voters.

There are 43 candidates vying for the 15 seats. Apart from the ULP and the NDP, the other parties are the three-year-old Democratic Republican Party (DRP), led by former senator Anesia Baptiste, which is contesting six seats while there are seven candidates for the SVG Green Party, which is led by Ivan O’Neal.

The polls, which open at 7.00 am, will close 10 hours later. The elections are being monitored by teams from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

On its arrival here, the eight-member Caricom team, which is headed by Gasper Jn Baptiste — chief elections officer of St Lucia — said that it “has been engaging various groups and institutions” and also held talks with representatives of the political parties.

In the last general election, the ULP won eight seats with the remaining seven going to the NDP.

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