THIS will certainly go down as the most bizarre general election in St Lucia’s history.
The Prime Minister has bungled the whole process and in a way, to his credit, he has conceded as much with a rare apology that we heard Wednesday evening. It is clear that the Prime Minister addressed the country and pronounced June 6 as election day, without establishing that all the preparations were in place and that the machinery was fully oiled and ready to roll.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in his statement that: “The writs for the General Election should have been signed on that day but was held up to await the list of Returning Officers from the Electoral Commission”. Should not all such matters have been in place before the election date was announced? Should not the Prime Minister have checked with the Electoral office to ensure that the list with the names of the Returning officers was available?
In the past week too, the Electoral Department has been frantic and printing houses have been working extended hours to get ready the final voters list that we have been promised will be out by May 31. To pacify the population, the Ministry of Education has promised that the election will not affect students writing exams even though some buildings will be used for both activities. Then, there is the change in the date for nomination of candidates that now disadvantages some candidates based on their religion, in addition to depriving them of their participation in the ceremony and excitement that usually accompanies such occasions.
All of this points to a bungling of the election preparations that has been costly in terms of the embarrassment and inconveniences it has caused to so many people. It however reinforces the point we have made repeatedly about the wisdom in having a fixed date for general elections. If ever we needed a graphic illustration of the merits of that move, this is it, and we again commend both major parties for committing to make the change if elected.
But the events since the announcement of the election date on May 19 have undoubtedly tarnished the image and confidence of the ruling party going into June 6 and one senses that there may not be enough time left for any kind of damage control.
With one week to go there has been no opportunity for any kind of in-depth articulation of the plans of the parties. Public meetings and rallies still do not offer much by way of structured and coherent delivery of ideas. There are no manifestoes out, not even from the ruling party which would have had the advantage of knowing the election date before everyone else. But St. Lucians do not seem to care too much; they are happy for the brevity of the campaign and want this election over and done with.