The unreliability of polls in St Lucia

The history of the accuracy of polls conducted in St Lucia is proof enough that the results of election-time polls cannot be trusted. (File Photo by Bill Mortley, Castries Market steps Labour Party meeting)

There is a poll circulating in St Lucia at the moment which projects that the St Lucia Labour Party will win the upcoming elections by a 10 seat Parliamentary majority to 6 for the incumbent UWP with one uncertain seat in Babonneau, resulting in an even more optimistic 11-6 outcome in favour of the SLP.
Any realistic supporter of the SLP should dismiss such predictions and not be comforted, for it is reminiscent of the outcome of the 2006 elections for the SLP, which suffered a devastating reversal of fortune based on wrong assumptions and predictions made by pollsters . The poll conducted by CADRES of Barbados for the SLP in 2006 projected that the SLP would win the elections by a 10-7 majority in a worst case scenario, while a Jamaican pollster gave the SLP a whopping 14-3 margin of victory. The results of those polls imbued the SLP with an overconfidence  which was reflected in a reckless disregard for the reality on the ground. Instead an 82-year-old octogenarian beat a  boastful an arrogant politician in a shocking 11-6 defeat.
Polls conducted in St Lucia are notoriously unreliable. This, I believe, is borne out of  a deep suspicion and entrenched  cultural attitude by St Lucians who are averse to revealing to pollsters their true feelings on issues or disclosing accurately their true state of affairs whether it be social, economic or political matters. Any survey or poll carried out in St Lucia is suspect, for St Lucians will not provide to those conducting surveys exactly what they earn, what their true economic circumstances are, and as for males the number of children they have fathered and the electorate who they will vote for. There is the suspicion that in a provincial society like ours that the information given will not be kept confidential and as far as political preferences go the attitude among St Lucians is, ‘who I vote for, is none of your  damn business!’
In all likelihood general elections will be called sometime in October or November this year, and most definitely not in December, for citizens might be offended by the idea of an election during the festive Christmas season. Constitutionally an incumbent can extend its stay in office for a further three months beyond the five year period. This would be totally unacceptable to the electorate who would only tolerate the extension of the life of government in a genuine state of emergency and not in circumstances meant to give it a political advantage.
So what are the prospects for the impending elections? From my perspective I will look at some of the criteria that in my assessment will influence the outcome of the elections. I will give an assessment of performance on the economic front; political leadership—i.e. the profile of the leadership of the two main political parties; the Taiwanese factor, and the role of other groups pretending to be legitimate political parties.
Of course there are other factors but I will restrict my analysis to those criteria. the main political parties in St Lucia, the SLP and the UWP have a base of unwavering supporters of between 34,000 to 36,000 voters. If one examines the margin of victory in successive elections over the years, one will discover that the victorious party emerged with a popular vote ranging between two to three thousand votes, not a large disparity. Therefore it is safe to conclude that both of the main political parties enjoy approximately equal numbers of supporters. The outstanding aberration is 1997 in which the SLP won by a margin of 44,153 votes to the UWP’s 26,325. The question that may need to be asked is how such a mandate could evaporate into thin air to one of outright derision and hatred towards a man once hailed as a saviour. Deep in the recesses of his mind Kenny Anthony knows the answer and I will not bother to go over a  road of recriminations against Kenny that are well known such as the recklessness of Rochamel, the introduction of a new term in St Lucia’s infrastructural expenditure called ‘cost over-runs,’ and his unction’s imperious attitude when called to account by the people. I sincerely believe had Kenny won the 2006 elections, he would have behaved like a tyrant and oligarch.
In contrast, although lacking the academic credentials, Stephenson King exudes a modest and affable personality that endears him to supporters and enemies alike. He never counters with the same viciousness that his opponents attack him to undermine him in the public eye. An affable and approachable politician is a formidable force in politics.                 As a former Press Secretary to PM King I have  never heard him utter a disparaging word about his political enemies, a philosophy once memorably expressed by Sir John. For in his political life when the most vicious labels were attached to Sir John he never responded in kind but in his later years would reveal that he never considered his political opponents to be ‘enemies,’ to him they were just ‘adversaries.’
On the economic front: The entire world, including the most advanced economies, from the mighty United States, Japan, Greece, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, to name just a few, are experiencing the most debilitating economic crisis the world has ever faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It is so easy for those with a narrow political agenda to preach doom and gloom about the St Lucian economy, and who will crucify the writer for giving a proper examination of the economic circumstances in which countries like ours find ourselves, having only a recourse to a vulnerable agriculture industry dominated by a fading banana sector and a tourism industry dependent on the USA and the United Kingdom now in the throws of what is termed ‘double digit’ recession.
On a minute by minute basis we are exposed daily to riots in European countries over austerity measures; the hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes in the United States, the millions who have lost their jobs now living in shelters, and dependent on soup kitchens for a daily meal. Somehow can we look into the heavens without fear of punishment from the mysterious force above, and say that St Lucia has done terribly under this global economic meltdown?                 According to calypsonian Chalk Dust, ‘all we have is sea water and sand,’ yet  with our limited means and resources, the economic depression has not affected our people visibly as much as the people in the rich, industrialized countries.
How many of us from all walks of life have been engaged by fellows St Lucians visiting us for Jazz, carnival, or holidays and been told, but I don’t understand how prosperous St Lucia looks.  Per capita, in the country
I live and work I have never seen more SUV-BMWs, Audis, and Range Rovers,
the vehicles of choice of the super rich in the advance countries.  Where do St Lucians get the money to build all those palatial homes and everybody looks so optimistic despite the economic decline that is affecting the entire globe.                 Despite Stephenson King’s lack of economic knowledge, there must be a financial and economic guru of outstanding capability guiding the economic ship of state for St Lucia under the present administration. Despite the vicious criticisms the leader of the opposition has not offered any alternative prescriptions for dealing with the economic situation that faces us, and will be exacerbated by the downgrading of America’s financial status ratings and the precipitous drop of the stock market.
The Republic of China on Taiwan has been the most generous benefactor to date to St Lucia since the advent of independence. The people of St Lucia are the beneficiaries of a multiplicity of projects that touch the lives of St Lucians in a personal way in the various communities. It is reflected in the rural areas where IT centres have
been established for the
youth, the concrete foot-paths that have been  built, pipe borne water that has been brought to remote communities, and the small agricultural projects that have been established by the Taiwanese. The rehabilitation of the Union Agricultural Station, from the Kenny Anthony administration’s mindless plans to turn it into a football field, now produces fresh water shrimp and introduced the cultivation of the most wondrous and beautiful orchids and judging from the large cross-section of people who attend the Taiwanese seminars and training sessions in this crop’s cultivation, will play a major role in our agricultural diversification.  Given a choice of mainland China’s presence in St Lucia, the people of St Lucia would without hesitation opt for the continued presence of Taiwanese in St Lucia because of their demonstrated concern for the welfare of the common people.
Still on the subject of Taiwan, I must take issue with a news item carried on Radio St Lucia on Tuesday 9th  August, News Nationwide news bulletin. What depths of degradation would our aspiring Prime Minister descend to? I was appalled to hear a strident, course Kenny Anthony, read in superfluous detail, a letter sent to him by some contractor about a contract for works awarded by the Taiwanese and given to the contractor at the recent launch  of the candidate for Choiseul. The letter detailed amounts demanded by Minister Bousquet from the contractor. Kenny promised that he would pass the letter to the police so they could take the necessary actions and arrest Bousquet. I have no brief for Rufus Bousquet, but I keep being astonished by Kenny’s  legal conclusions. How can the police act in a matter that does not involve state funds or taxpayers’ money and should rightly be the concern of the Taiwanese Embassy?  Is it the typical behaviour of Kenny to regard the citizens of this country as persons with limited intelligence, that even a roadside lawyer can detect the patent unethical attempt to misdirect a gullible public in mindless allegations. We in St Lucia are not naïve. I challenge every politician in St Lucia who has ever been in office to swear that he has never engaged in that kind of stuff.
Why isn’t Kenny instead educating the crowds at political gathering about his alternative plans for a better St Lucia and the course of action that our young people should pursue to be prepared for the new world of technology and opportunity, and the education and discipline required to participate effectively in the world of work of the future as well as alleviate the unemployment situation.
I will deal briefly with the final issue that I set out to analyze as important influences on the outcome of the upcoming elections: the existence of groups pretending to be serious contenders in the upcoming elections. With elections  due in St Lucia within a period of four months, that is from now until December 11th 2011, or  constitutionally extended to March 2012. To date the parties I wish to dismiss are the LPM  and my good friend Azi Alexander of ONE.
These parties have no political base, I wish to simply re-iterate some of the arguments I advanced as far back as early January this year, for which I was roundly criticize. I argued that political activity cannot be conducted from a safe perch overseas by remote control and the issuance of press releases. With elections only a few months away those gentlemen have not abandoned their jobs and their US citizenship if they are to seriously take part in the upcoming elections.
The electorate gravitate to the people who wish to represent them who are in the trenches to identify and feel their problems, their pain and their suffering. The people form an attachment to those persons who can articulate their problems and offer them their unique solutions to get out of the mire of their deprivations. There is nothing that is reflected in the LPM which demonstrates that the LPM is ready to participate in the next elections in St Lucia. I expect that at the last minute, St Lucians without any demonstrated political conviction will tell the LPM they are unable to run. I was harshly pilloried for my statement then, that I have even more reason to persist, that the LPM should be relegated to the dust bin of St Lucia’s political history.
Azi Alexander of One fame is a pleasant personality and good friend, who knows that ONE is not a serious contender. But I do think he plays a useful role in bringing to public attention issues of national importance. I believe that in our small society, in the conduct of elections we should not be creating acrimony among our people by attacking with impunity the reputation of other candidates, when those painting accusatory fingers have had worse allegations leveled
against them in the
shadows of their past. In the provincial society that is ours we know what they are, so be silent.
Instead let us elevate the debate and discuss issues that offer a better and more efficient administration for our countries, not tissues that belong to the Deglos landfill.

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