Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves created history in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) when he led his ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) to a comfortable fifth consecutive victory in the general elections on Thursday.
Preliminary figures released by the Electoral Office showed that the ULP had won nine of the 15 seats in the Parliament, an increase of three seats on the previous one-seat majority he had enjoyed in the last two general elections. It is the first time that a political party has won five consecutive general elections in the country.
Gonsalves, 74, easily won his North Central Windward seat he has been representing since 2001, brushing aside the two other candidates in Chieftain Neptune of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and Kadmiel McFee of the CVG Green Party.
In a message posted on his Facebook page, Gonsalves thanked voters for returning the ULP to power.
“It’s celebration time. It is five in the tail,” he wrote,” as party supporters gathered for the celebration. Today, the people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines embraced the politics of “Lifting SVG Higher. They embraced our progressive agenda for the future by returning us to government.
“I am humbled and honoured that the people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines embraced our bold vision for the future and rejected the politics of hate, backwardsness and colonialism.
“We ask Vincentians to celebrate this victory in peace and maturity. Now is the time to come together as one nation to address our developmental challenges and move forward to uplift our nation and it’s people,” Gonsalves added.
NDP leader Dr. Godwin Friday, 61, who led the party into a general election for the first time, easily retained the Northern Grenadines seat he has represented in Parliament since 2001. He polled 2,123 votes as against 458 for the ULP’s Carlos Williams.
The NDP, as has been customary, swept the two seats on the sister isle of the Grenadines. The other seat, in the Southern Grenadines was won by Terrance Ollivierre, who defeated Edwin Snagg by a margin of 1153 to 559.
One of the causalities of the election was Health Minister Luke Brown, who was defeated by newcomer, Dwight Fitzgerald Bramble in the East Kingstown constituency that had been represented by former NDP leader Arnhim Eustace, a former prime minister and finance minister, who quit active politics last year.
Brown, who polled 2, 306 votes had been defeated in the last two elections by Eustace and had hoped to win the seat in his absence. Bramble polled 2,547
In the North Leeward, the ULP’s Carlos James won by seven votes against the incumbent Ronald Mathews, polling 2, 287 as against 2, 280 for Mathews. James had lost the seat in the 2015 election by 12 votes.
Friday has not made any public statement following the results, but regional political scientist and commentator, Peter Wickham, said that the result is a “historic first in the region.
“He (Gonsalves) has outdone former St. Kitts-Nevis prime minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and even P.J. Patterson in Jamaica. So it is something significant,” Wickham said on the state-owned NBC Radio.
But he also noted that this is the second election in the Caribbean in recent times when “an aged party in office has been able to pick up additional seats,” making reference to the situation in Dominica last December.
“It is a vote of confidence in the Unity Labour Party. Voter turnout is down and the voter turnout being down at this time is not terribly surprising, but it would not be a bad idea for the government to sit and reflect on the lower voter turnout and see whether there are initiatives that should be taken in terms of the electoral reform.
“I don’t think it will be possible to achieve major constitutional changes at this time, but I do think it would make sense to start talking about electoral reform and see what can be achieved,” Wickham added.