Two respected political analysts have found themselves on opposing ends of the St Lucia general election debate, with St Lucia-born Dr Tennyson Joseph and Barbadian Peter Wickham trading strong punches in the run-up to Monday’s general elections there. The controversy follows pollster Wickham’s release of his latest public opinion poll this week, which concluded that the race between the Dr Kenny Anthony-led ruling St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and the Allen Chastanet-led Opposition United Workers Party (UWP), was simply too close to call.
To add to the Barbadian political intrigue in the Castries poll, a recent visit by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley to St Lucia has also become the subject of regional political debate, with prominent Dominican lawyer Anthony Astaphan among those questioning her judgement, as one seeking to become Prime Minister of Barbados, appearing to support the opposition and not the incumbent St Lucia government.
In a voice note, which was shared with Barbados TODAY, Astaphan, who is a close advisor to Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, also revealed that Barbadian political strategist Hartley Henry was advising the UWP on its campaign.
However, Mottley told Barbados TODAY her visit was strictly to provide legal representation for a client but while there she attended meetings of both political parties.
Asked about the presence on the ground in Castries of a team of some of her personal advisors, including Debbie Hughes and Lucille Moe, who are said to be working for the UWP, an incensed Mottley responded: “What is this? Am I being followed by the Gestapo?”
Reacting cautiously to reports that Mottley was seen in St Lucia over the past week, Joseph, who is a former candidate of the SLP, said it was important to know what she was doing there.
However, Wickham was totally dismissive of the concern, pointing out that it was common practice for West Indian politicians to attend mass meetings at election time in the region.
He, however, did not mince his words after hearing Joseph’s criticisms of his latest poll.
Arguing that the head of the Department of Government at Cave Hill was not a “pollster” but a “philosopher”, Wickham accused Joseph of venturing into a field for which he was not trained.
He went on to defend his latest survey, explaining that even though the elections were too close for him to call, the current momentum was in his professional estimation with Chastanet and his UWP.
“The uncertain vote had gone significantly in Chastanet’s favour and a majority of uncertain voters wanted a change in Government,” Wickham said, adding,“all of the indicators are favourable to the UWP.
“It is not only the Saudi Arabia affair [that surrounds Anthony’s appointment of billionaire Walid Juffali as St Lucia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization], but the bigger issue for most St Lucians is the level of unemployment which stands at 24 per cent. People are most concerned about unemployment and people are needy.”
However, Joseph questioned Wickham’s emphasis on “swing analysis” which he claims “does not drill down into specific constituencies” to give a clear picture of possible voting patterns.
Based on his own critical analysis of the voting patterns in St Lucia over the years, Joseph, who is originally from the southwest village of Choiseul and contested (and lost) the Choiseul/Saltibus seat in 2006 for the SLP, contended that the ruling St Lucia Labour Party would not have a hard time winning Monday’s general elections since there were at least seven “safe” seats, which means it would only need two more seats to retain the Government and a majority in the 17-member parliament.
While dismissing Wickham’s poll, which Joseph said was conducted for the UWP, he pointed out that a recent poll released by the SLP assured the ruling party of 11 seats in the upcoming poll.
Joseph, who served briefly as Prime Minister Anthony’s Administrative Attaché between 2000 and 2003, and was an Opposition Senator for a brief period in 2007, said that result was consistent with his own “reading” of the situation.
Though acknowledging that the highly controversial appointment of the Saudi Arabian billionaire did cause some political fall-out for the SLP, Joseph contended that it would have very little impact on the results of the general elections.