Trio of Jamaica, St Lucia and Guyana
By Rickey Singh; Observer
Friday, September 30, 2011
Source - Jamaica Observer
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — General elections politics is very much the game in the Caribbean Community this September — from Jamaica in the north to St Lucia in the eastern subregion and down to Guyana on the South American mainland.
But, undoubtedly, the most dramatic political development has been last Sunday's surprised, if not exactly shocking, announcement by Jamaica's Bruce Golding to quit both as prime minister and leader of his incumbent Jamaica Labour Party by November. By Monday night, St Lucia's Prime Minister Stephenson King was struggling in a broadcast statement to sanitise the implications for his UWP administration of the circumstances that forced the resignation of his controversial Housing Minister Richard Frederick.
That was less than a month after the resignation of Deputy Speaker Marcus Nicholas, who also quit as a parliamentarian of the party to sit as an Independent.
This coming Sunday, Guyana's governing People's Progressive Party (PPP) is scheduled to hold a mass rally in the well-known sugar belt area of Albion in the Corentyne region, ahead of an expected announcement by the following day the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on its readiness to conduct new presidential and parliamentary elections.
With GECOM's readiness-announcement on Monday, it is widely expected that outgoing President Bharrat Jagdeo will lose little time in disclosing the fixed date for the coming national elections which could be in the final week of October, possibly not later than Friday, October 28.
A frenzy of activities will follow that announcement by Jagdeo, who is constitutionally debarred from a successive third term. The parties will then have to come forward with their respective list of candidates for the 65-member National Assembly, presidential candidates and their running mates.
For the first time the already identified presidential hopefuls will all be newcomers — both for the incumbent PPP as well as the main opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which is dominated by the old People's National Congress (PNC), and the Alliance for Change (AFC).
In St Lucia, new elections for the 17-member House of Assembly is due this coming December — the last one having taken place on December 11, 2006 when the UWP defeated the then two-term incumbent SLP of former Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony with a 11-6 majority.
Currently, having suffered two resignations from its parliamentary group — first by Janine Compton (daughter of the late Prime Minister Sir John Compton) and now that of ex-Deputy Speaker Nicholas — Prime Minister King is holding on to power with a one-seat parliamentary majority in the face of strong signals (including from a public opinion poll) that point to an expected change in government.
However, it is in Jamaica where uncertainties over the political landscape are greater following the sudden resignation announcement by Golding to his party's Central Executive.
Quite unlike what transpired some 14 months ago, when he had first disclosed a decision to quit both as prime minister and JLP leader, this time Golding's announcement to walk away from leadership politics in Jamaica is, as he said, "irreversible".
Final straw? The final straw seems to have been the sensational developments relating to his administration's handling of what has come to be known as the so-called 'Dudus affair', more correctly being his bowing to demands by the US authorities to extradite the infamous gangster from Tivoli Gardens, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, to face indictment on narco-trafficking and gunrunning.
With Golding's face set on moving out of the political arena — he has confessed to having had to carry an enormous political burden — the inevitable speculations have begun about his likely successor.
While no known popular potential candidate has been fingered, even by those most familiar with the party politics of both the JLP and PNP, there have come suggestions from a few credible sources that Education Minister Andrew Holness, and Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Dr Christopher Tufton could be high up in the first list of choices.
A new general election is not constitutionally due before a year from this month, but already the main Opposition People's National Party (PNP), led by former short-term prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, is talking and acting as if a return to state power is very much within its grasp.
At the September 3, 2007 elections for the 60-member House of Representatives, the JLP had defeated the PNP by a majority of four seats but with a difference of less than one per cent more of the overall popular votes cast.