Voters in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country go to the polls on Thursday to elect a new government with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves eyeing an unprecedented fifth consecutive term in power and his main rival, Dr Godwin Friday, hoping to reverse the trend.
Gonsalves, 74, who has had the distinction of contesting all general elections in the country since it attained political independence from Britain in 1979, is hoping that his Unity Labour Party (ULP) will have a more comfortable margin of victory than the slender one seat it managed in the last two general elections for control of the 15-member Parliament.
“I put my bucket down among the people in love and caring and my runs are on the tins. Those who want to beat them off have to go to the wicket of leadership, but in these difficult and perilous times, this is not a time for a trainee.
“This is not a time for an apprentice. This is the time for a seasoned warrior and a master builder who has a record of service to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves has said of his thrust towards his much hoped for “Five in a Row” victory.
Friday, 61, the Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines since 2001, is leading the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) into a general election for the first time, having replaced the economist Arnhim Eustace, the former finance minister, who last served in government when the NDP was booted out of office in a 2001 routing that ended its 17-year stint in office.
“I know that they (ULP) want to get into our head but we have prepared the grounds for winning this election free and fair,” Friday told party supporters
Friday, speaking further at a ceremony where the two main political parties had signed the Code of Conduct, emphasised that it was “important that we understand the gravity of the process of voting.
“Those selected must reflect the will of the people” and “all actions that demean this process do not guarantee that the people are served, and are led by the party and the political leadership of their choice”, he said.
The NDP’s challenge of the defeat in the last general election is still before the courts and Friday has on numerous occasions defended the decision, saying it is important for the population to be fully aware of what had transpired in the December 2015 election.
Barbados-based regional pollster, Peter Wickham, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the swing required for the ULP to lose the election would have to be ”quite significant” and that the swing required by the ruling party to actually gain a seat is “quite small.
“”I think on a balance of probability I am more inclined to think that the Unity Labour Party is in a position to hold on to office and could possibly gain an additional seat or two because two seats are within the swing range,” said Wickham, who has done polling in several regional countries ahead of a general election.
Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Sylvester King said the Special Voters Registration period ended on October 24 and that every person who is 18 years of age or older on or before October 24, was entitled to be registered as a voter, and must ensure that they complete their registration during the Special Registration Period.
The voters list shows that 98 119 people are eligible to vote during the 10 hour period that begins at 7 a.m. local time.