KINGSTOWN — Polling stations across this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country closed officially today after a ten-hour period during which an estimated 90,000 people were eligible to cast ballots to elect a new government.
Both the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) are predicting victory with the leaders of the two parties –– Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace –– facing the possibility of writing local history.
Gonsalves is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office, while Eustace is intended on reversing a losing trend dating back to 2001.
The NDP, which brought a number of regional lawyers to help it monitor the poll, has claimed that in some constituencies there were widespread voting irregularities, but Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb called on the party to present the proof.
The elections were monitored by several overseas teams, including the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
More than 80,000 people were registered to vote in the general election today with both the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) confident that they would get the nod from the Vincentian electorate.
The two parties have been mounting impressive election rallies across the island where the CADRES Poll conducted in late November found that as many as 58 per cent of the respondents said the “issues of greatest concern” to them this election were jobs, employment, the cost of living and the economy.
Eustace believes that the population has “had enough” with the ULP, adding: “. . . They have seen the outcome of their policies and programmes.
“In the last seven years, we have had four consecutive years of negative growth and three years of very low growth, unemployment has skyrocketed, so has crime,” he told CMC, adding: “Unemployment continues to rise and more and more people have to be supported by the state.
“I think that has pushed a number of people in our direction. I think it is fair to say, I can feel it on the ground that the public response to us is far better than it ever was and I believe that this is quite clear signal of change,” said the economist, who in October, 2000, succeeded Sir James Mitchell as the leader of the NDP, and led it into defeat ever since 2001.
But Gonsalves says his administration’s performance speaks for itself and should it be returned to power today, it would continue with a number of socio-economic policies including the completion of the EC$729 million Argyle International Airport next year.
“It is not like we are in the opposition to say these are the things we will be doing during the first 100 days. That’s usually an opposition coming into office.
“We have a number of initiatives which are at various stages of advancement, opening the Argyle International Airport, building the geothermal plant, a new city at the E.T. Joshua Airport site, a new cruise ship port, . . . consolidating the education and health and wellness revolutions and housing,” Gonsalves told CMC.
He said his new administration would also be involved in creating jobs, rehabilitating the nation road network “because we have legacy from the Argyle Airport to put into the road building programme and we have resources put aside from a number of agencies . . . .”
The Electoral Office said that 89,527 people who are registered to vote, 11,904 registered between the period January 1, 2011 and November 23, this year.
There were 43 candidates vying for the 15 seats. Apart from the ULP and the NDP, the other parties are the three-year-old Democratic Republican Party led by former senator Anesia Baptiste, which is contesting six seats while there were seven candidates for the SVG Green Party, which is led by Ivan O’Neal.
The elections were monitored by teams from the Organization of American States, the CARICOM, and National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism.
On its arrival here, the eight-member CARIOM team, which is headed by Gasper Jn Baptiste, chief elections officer of St Lucia, said that it “has been engaging various groups and institutions” and also held talks with representatives of the political parties.
In the last general election, the ULP won eight seats with the remaining seven going to the NDP.