Wed | Sep 28, 2022

St Kitts and Nevis opposition party wins general election

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2022 | 12:14 AM

BASSETERRE, St Kitts and Nevis (CMC):

Seven years after being booted out of office, the main opposition St Kitts Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) is heading back into the corridors of power, winning six of the 11 contested seats on the twin island Federation.

Preliminary figures released by the Supervisor of Elections, Elvin Bailey, more than 17 hours after the official close of polling on Friday night, showed that Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris was the lone successful candidate for his People’s Labour Party (PLP); so, too, Shawn Richards of the People’s Action Movement (PAM); while Mark Brantley’s Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won all three seats in Nevis, as it had done in the June 2020 general election.

The three parties had formed the coalition Team Unity administration that Harris led before he was forced to call the early poll three years ahead of the constitutional deadline after his Cabinet colleagues filed a motion of no confidence in him.

Harris averted the debate by dissolving the Parliament and calling for a general election on August 5.

The SKNLP, led by the Cuba-trained medical practitioner, Dr Terrence Drew, who will become the Federation’s fourth prime minister, had campaigned on the need to liberate the country from the clutches of the coalition Team Unity government.

Drew polled the highest number of votes in the election, receiving 2,950; while Chesley Hamilton of the PAM got 895; and the PLP’s Andrew Bass, 761.

“It is an amazing outcome for the party,” said regional political analyst and pollster Peter Wickham, recalling the defeat the party had suffered in the last two general elections.

Political strategist Hartley Henry blamed the coalition for what he described as “an unnecessary election”, adding that the results were “a rejection of an administration that had become disconnected from the people”.

Both Wickham and Henry said they did not expect the PLP, and Harris for that matter, to have any influence in the political future of the Federation, hinting also that the defeat may also signal the end of Harris’ political career that has spanned more than 25 years.

Among the victorious SKNLP candidates is former prime minister Dr Denzil Douglas, who, before the 2015 general election, had been among the longest-serving leaders in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

During the campaign, Douglas dismissed suggestions of a rift within the hierarchy of the then opposition SKNLP, insisting that he is supportive 100 per cent of Drew, who took over the leadership of the party last year when Douglas stepped down after 33 years and 20 years as prime minister.

Douglas polled 1,926 votes as compared with 98 for PAM’s Troy Flanders, 309 for Dr Marc Williams of the PLP, and three votes for Carlton Dupont.

For his part, Harris received 1,266 votes as against 176 for PAM’s Lincoln David-Pelle and 903 for the SKNLP’s Leon Natta-Nelson.

There are 11 seats at stake in the 15-member Parliament, with the governor general nominating the other four seats.

The lengthy period in announcing the election results was not missed on former Jamaica prime minister Bruce Golding, the head of the Observer Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), one of two observer groups that monitored the election. The other team came from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“One recommendation that we have consistently made, in 2011 and again in 2015, is that we need to avoid any extended period of time between the closing of polls and the declaration of the results,” Golding told a news conference after his team observed Friday’s electoral process.

“People need to know that, when a government takes office, that government was properly elected, and you run the risk of undermining that confidence.”

Golding said that the OAS mission will urge the new government to “attend to the issues of electoral reform and to do it early; to have the necessary discussions, consultation; not only among the political parties but with the society, with the public; have them properly informed so that we can have those improvements put in place long before the next elections are due”.