KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, May 5, 2020 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, says he has not given “any real thought to the altered targets for elections”, amid concerns that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have altered his plans for announcing a date for the general elections, later this year.
General elections are constitutionally due by March 2021, but Gonsalves has said, in the past, that voters will be given the opportunity of electing a new government, ahead of the three-month grace period, allowed for in the Constitution.
The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), which came to power in 2001, and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) have been staging political events, prior to March 11, when the island recorded its first case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that subsequently led to the country, like other Caribbean islands, imposing measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Gonsalves, asked how he felt the pandemic might affect the timing of the elections, replied, “it has often been said that one week is a long time in politics. And I haven’t given any real thought to the altered targets for elections”.
But he disclosed that he had held discussions with Opposition Leader, Dr. Godwin Friday, and had drafted a letter to the Governor-General, regarding the appointment of the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
“Because, we have, under the Constitution, if there’s a new census, we have to have the commission meet for a determination,” Gonsalves said, noting that the last report, from the EBC, is in excess of eight years.
“As you know, in 2010, we had passed a resolution in the Parliament, to increase the seats from 15 to 17. And that exercise was stalled in the court,” Gonsalves said, adding that “the 2015 election was concluded on the basis of the 15 seats”.
He said that the Attorney-General has advised that the resolution has been vacated, “because, in constitutional terms, because you had a subsequent election on the old boundaries and that original matter has not been resolved, you need to have a Boundaries Commission”.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that he did not believe “that given the circumstances, any of the major political parties is interested in increasing the number of seats”.
He noted that the Constitution states the Governor-General would name, in her own deliberate judgment, someone as Chairperson of the Boundaries Commission.
“And the Leader of the Opposition would advise Her Excellency, on one member, and as Prime Minister, I would advise Her Excellency on another member.
“So I want to get that show on the road. The point is this, in all of this matter with COVID, we have always to respect the Constitution and do things, other people are not thinking about them, but I have to think about them, because I’m the captain in charge of the ship, metaphorically. So I have to address all of these things,” Gonsalves said.
“Electorally, that is the only matter that I’m addressing, institutionally. As to when elections are going to be held, your guess is as good as mine,” Gonsalves said.
In the last general election, the ULP won by an eight to seven margin, and the NDP has since gone to court, challenging the outcome in two of the constituencies.