A Redemption Message

Labour Party leader Kenny Anthony with wife Rose Marie Antoine at Sunday’s victory rally.

November’s election results reveal one clear and unambiguous message: the redemption of Dr Kenny D Anthony. The word redemption came from the wife of Dr Anthony, after witnessing her husband take the Oath of Office for the third time. Dr Anthony’s emotional public outburst at the swearing-in ceremony was touching. I too, could not stop my eyes from welling up with tears. Yes, we are all humans filled with our respective imperfections.
The people have spoken, but the messages are mixed. An 11-6 electoral victory in 2011 is a far cry from the resounding 16-1 in 1992 and a compelling 14-3 in 1997. It is common knowledge that in December 2006 the voters sent Dr Anthony and the SLP packing because it lost confidence in the leadership abilities of Dr Anthony. An internal party search for what went wrong in 2006 discovered that the leader was at fault. It confirmed what deceased George Odlum said during the 2001 budget debate: that the leadership of the SLP had “alienated the masses.”
Shockingly, Odlum said it had taken just three years for the leadership to accomplish that feat, when it had taken Compton thirty years. Shortly after delivering that inconvenient truth, George Odlum visited Atlanta on a private business trip. At the Renaissance Hotel in College Park, we spoke about the political situation in the country and the problems facing “New Labour.”                 George told me that his public criticism of his colleagues and his government was well intentioned. He said that there was no malice, and believed if the right things were done the SLP had a real chance to level with the people and turn things around. The people, Odlum thought, had been isolated from the processes of government and the ground was shifting under Labour. The rest as they say is now history.
In the weeks and months ahead there will be much analysis and discussion about Election 2011. What is abundantly clear is that the election has been decided in favour of the St Lucia Labour Party and Dr Kenny Anthony is now Prime Minister, assuming the post for a third term. It is also clear that the election did not produce the result expected by the United Workers Party. On the eve of the election, former Prime Minister Stephenson King predicted that his UWP would win 14 of the 17 seats at stake. His crystal ball gazing was inaccurate. Politics is a science; it is not an exercise in voodoo Mathematics. How King arrived at this optimistic projection beats the heck out of all political calculation and accounting. Let’s just put it down to the unperfumed scent in the atmosphere at the time. We can be gracious in victory and say it was just his vision of the ‘audacity of hope!’ Hope that could not be transmitted into the ballot box.
Another glaring result of the election is the polarization of the electorate. More than any election this one shows the depth of the divide that exists between the two main political parties. A nail-biting two vote win in the Babonneau constituency and a razor sharp seven-vote margin in Gros Islet emphasizes the depth of the division. Ah, but there is the party spin that both of those constituencies were held by the incumbents with huge majorities in the 2006 election and should have been fairly safe seats for the United Workers Party.
To accept that proposition as gospel will negate the tenacity and hard work of the female candidates in those respective areas. Is it possible that the macho men in those constituencies underestimated the strength of the women? Is it possible that the women employed poule bois tactics, meticulously working the seats day and night while the men showed up at the eleventh hour thinking they were in relatively safe seats? Did they place their faith in the power of the mighty dollar believing that all will be alright in the morning after the election? Whatever their justification, it simply goes to prove that in politics there is never a so called safe seat.
Competent political representation dictates that there should always be a grounding with ordinary people. It is instructive to note that both men were deputy leaders of their party. Is there a subtle message in their loss?
What is also true is that this was not a wave election. The respective political leaders carried no popular coattails to propel their party to power. Contrary to what I have heard in the local press, the traditional bases of the two parties turned out to vote. The closeness and tightness of the races especially in the north of the island revealed that the seats were fiercely contested by the main parties. Third parties and independent candidates, with the exception of Jeannine Compton, were decimated. Their EC$250 deposits served as welcome enrichment to the coffers of the electoral commission.
There is no need for any serious analysis to know why the Lucian People’s Movement failed so horribly: it was never a serious political organization. Press releases, You Tube postings and call-ins to talk shows from secured perches in the Diaspora are not good enough political strategies that can translate to votes in the ballot boxes. You need boots on the ground and in the trenches, so let this be a lesson.
As for Ausbert d’Auvergne’s misadventure with the hurriedly resurrected NDM, at the last minute, St Lucians made it clear they have absolutely no time for foolishness. So, is there a future for third parties in the political landscape of the island? Perhaps, but by the evidence so far, the answer at this time is a resounding and defeating no? The entrenched two party system is here to stay and those who harbor the view that there is room for a third realm should not insult the intelligence of voters. They are only making it more difficult to change the status quo.
This is the first election in which internet and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and emails may have played a crucial role in mobilizing voters. It was heartening to follow the various discussion blogs during the campaign. At least three of the most active and organized candidates, namely Philip Pierre, Emma Hipployte and Lorne Theophilus used social media successfully. Many thought Guy Mayers would have won easily in his rematch with Pierre. It did not happen. In fact, Pierre improved his margin of victory this time by about seven hundred votes. It is still unclear what happened to Rufus Bousquet in Choiseul. There is word that he may have been distracted by his illness, leading to his loss against Lorne Theophilus. Others claim that Lorne’s parents played a vital role.
Emma’s continuous stumping on the ground, her toil and sweat and her symbiosis with the people at the end squeaked her in. The campaign against her was also the most personal and hypocritical. The ads were nasty and demeaning. Perhaps, in their wisdom the electorate was sending a powerful anti-maypwis election campaign messages to the political parties. Stick to the issues not the filth.
Dr Kenny Anthony and the SLP conducted a well organized and highly disciplined campaign. Immediately after the election date was announced the party machinery went into high gear. Obviously, its time in opposition had allowed it the luxury to set up the necessary mobilization structures on the ground. It also appears that the party had a well-rehearsed get-out-the-vote ground organization. Then came the launching of the manifesto and the campaign took on a new life. It was the turning point of the election.
Many who witness the well executed launching on the Castries Market Steps left thinking that this was a competent and prepared Team Labour ready to assume the reigns of power. Nearing the final weeks of the campaign, a local chant “en rouge” became the rallying cry of complete defiant. So defeating was the chant it seems to have forced the UWP underground. By the time the chants died the election was over and the UWP emerge on the opposition benches. Now, it is redemption time for Dr Kenny Anthony.
My sincere congratulations to Dr Anthony and Team Labour.

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