St Kitts election creates regional stir
Highly irregular and unfortunate!
That’s how political scientist Peter Wickham has summed up the day’s electoral developments in St Kitts and Nevis where Supervisor of Election Wingrove George delayed the declaration of results of Monday’s general election for more than 20 hours after the close of the poll.
It wasn’t until late this evening that George, who said he was seeking to ensure that the results were irrefutable, formally announced that the opposition coalition known as Team Unity had won seven of the 11 seat, which were at stake. The other four seats were won by the incumbent St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) of former prime minister Dr Denzil Douglas and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP). The two parties had formed an accommodation for the poll.
Wickham also described as “unfortunate” recent political events in the twin-island federation in the lead up to the poll, which he said had tarnished Douglas’ legacy for good and provided a case for renewed discussion on term limits.
“Certainly in my lifetime I have never known an election as irregular as this. I have not seen it like this before and certainly we spoke to [Dominica’s] Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who is now the OECS Chair, he indicated it was highly irregular for him as well.
“I think it is a lesson to all leaders in the Caribbean that they need to come to serve and move on and they need to consider their legacy,” Wickham said.
Prior to the poll, there was concern over parliament’s failure to debate an Opposition-led motion of no confidence tabled since December 2012. The Douglas-led SKNLP had also rushed to convene an emergency session of the National Assembly last month during which a bill to alter the federation’s constituency boundaries was tabled immediately before the parliament was dissolved.
This triggered a series of legal manoeuvres before the UK-based Privy Council overturned the boundary decision.
“Dr Douglas has essentially damaged his reputation and his legacy. It’s unfortunate,” said Wickham.
In a separate response, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley described the election outcome as “testimony to what people coming together for the right reasons can accomplish. Those who labour together in a great cause can never fail,” the Barbados Labour Party leader added.
She, however, expressed concern over the long delay in proclaiming the election results, while stating that such events reinforced the need for a mechanism –– both at the level of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) –– to protect the wishes of citizens.
“We need to relook the role of these institutions and the treaties which are signed in the name of our people, like the Charter of Civil Society, but which far too often have been ineffective in dealing with the real problems that our people and institutions face.”
There was also widespread reaction from other regional leaders and organizations.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar expressed concern that the events could hurt the region’s reputation for democracy and for the holding of free and fair elections.
“As a region we have to be very careful of the messages that we send and that which is emanating from St Kitts and Nevis is not the kind of message we want to send to our people and to the world,” she said ahead of the release of the official results.
Her Vincentian counterpart Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had also criticized the actions of the Elections Supervisor, welcomed the new Team Unity government, while praising the work of his former colleague, Dr Douglas, conceded defeat this evening.