By Ernie Seon
CMC St. Lucia Correspondent
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 19, (CMC) – St. Lucia Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, tonight, announced June 6 as the date for the next general election in St. Lucia, telling the electorate that he had decided to call the polls early, in the interest of the country.
Nomination Day will be on May 27.
In a radio and television broadcast, Anthony, 65, said that he had until April 5, 2017 to call the general election under the Constitution.
“However, I have decided, in the interest of our country, to call the general election several months ahead of its due date, to ensure peace, stability and certainty in our country and its affairs.
“The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has agitated for elections for months and on our side, the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) says, ‘we are ready’,” he told the nation.
In the November 2011 general election, the SLP won 11 of the 17 seats with the UWP winning six seats.
“Fellow St. Lucians, the die is cast! The decision time has arrived! Today, I advised the Governor General to dissolve the Parliament of St. Lucia, and to issue ‘Writs of Election’ to pave the way for the general election.
“The general election will be held on June 06, 2016. Nomination day will be May 27, 2016,” Anthony said.
There had been widespread speculation that Anthony would have used a rally of his party, tonight, to announce the date for the general election; with former UWP leader and prime minister, Stephenson King, indicating that St. Lucians would have gone to the polls in June.
UWP leader, Allen Chastanet, during a news conference, yesterday, had called on Anthony to stop the “silly games” regarding the date for the election and said the prime minister was doing so because of his decline in popularity with the electorate.
Chastanet was also critical of Prime Minister Anthony, who is also Finance Minister, for refusing to present an official budget statement to Parliament but was now offering to substitute this with 15 “political trinkets” in the form of plans and promises by a future Labour government.
“This is a continuous game of deception being played out by a Prime Minister, who knows he is no longer held in high regard and trusted by the majority of citizens. If Dr. Anthony had solid plans and programs for the country, he would have followed up the laying of the Appropriation Bill in Parliament with the presentation of a much needed budget” the UWP leader said.
In his broadcast, Anthony, who said that the country had achieved much under his administration over the past four and half years, defended his decision not to make a statement regarding the budget, saying “the explanations for what appears to be unusual, are rather simple.
“Section 79(1) of our Constitution requires that the Minister of Finance prepare and lay the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure “before or not later than 30 days after the commencement of the financial year.” In turn, section 79 (2) of the Constitution provides for an Appropriation Bill to be introduced in the House of Assembly to authorize expenditure from the Consolidated Fund.
“These are the two fundamental requirements established by the Constitution to allow expenditure by the government. Clearly, we need to ensure that any expenditure by the government is fully authorized. And we have done so,” said Anthony, who is also an attorney.
He said, given his decision to call the general election just after the passage of the Appropriation Bill 2016/17, “I felt it best that the government elected by the will of the people in the general election…be given the opportunity to present, within a reasonable period after the general election, its economic and policy proposals by way of a Financial Statement to the House”.
He said he held such a view as far back as 1997 when the general election was held in May of that year.
Anthony said he remains “eternally grateful to you for the support and understanding that you have shown for the adjustments we have made to ensure that our economy became stronger, better, and more resilient.
“Some of our measures were not always popular but it was never in doubt that the measures were implemented in the best interests of our country. By our common will and collective efforts, we saved our country from the IMF (International Monetary Fund).”