Undecided Voters Speak

WITH thousands of Saint Lucians getting ready to head to the polls next Monday, there are many variables riding on a general election that many are finding too difficult to predict.

For starters, over the course of the past five general elections, the average non-voting segment stood at 40.4%. The lowest percentage for that category during that period was 37% in 1992 and the highest 47% in 2001.

Secondly, neither the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) nor United Workers’ Party (UWP) was able to amass at least 30% of the total number of eligible votes between 2001 and 2011.

Thirdly, political parties winning the last two general elections did so with narrow margins. For example, the UWP received 29% of the total number of eligible votes in 2006, compared to SLP’s 28%. In the 2011 general election, the SLP picked up 28% of the total number of eligible votes while the UWP amassed 26%.

Between 1992 and 2006, the election results based on the percentage of votes cast were as follows:
• 1992: UWP (56.43%), SLP (43.00%), Others (0.57%)
• 1997: SLP (61.37%) UWP 36.55%), Others (2.07%)
• 2001: SLP (56.01%), UWP (37.84%), Others (6.15%)
• 2006: UWP (51.34%), SLP (48.32%), Others (0.34%)

In 2011, there were 150,996 eligible voters, with 85,821 actually casting their votes. The SLP received 42,640 votes, compared to UWP’s 39,336 in an election year in which a 56.84% voter turnout was recorded. The NDM, LPM, LG and Independents accounted for 1,679 votes while there were 2,166 rejected ballots.

Fourthly, results from a poll conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc. (CADRES) released this week indicated that uncertain voters account for 30% of the 1,000 interviewed across Saint Lucia’s 17 constituencies.

That poll was conducted between May 20 and 23 this year and is said to have a margin of error of +/-5%, the yardstick often used by CADRES in surveys across the Caribbean.

This week, both the UWP and SLP launched their manifestos in which they articulated their plans and policies should either of them be victorious on Monday. But with conflicting polls making predictions, many believe that the election results weigh heavily on voter turnout which is often affected by voter apathy, and the undecided base.

The VOICE put the question to people who had not bothered to vote originally but have decided to do so now and what caused them to change their minds. We also wanted to hear from those who were undecided but somehow made up their minds that they will vote come Monday.

One respondent, D.J., said she is still undecided, adding: “My fear is that whoever forms the government and my constituency is represented by the opposition might result in us suffering again for another five years. The elections this time around are very unpredictable.”

Another respondent, J.S., said she, too, has not made a decision on whether to vote or spoil her ballot, while admitting that she will show up at the polls on Monday. She added, however, that should she vote, there is one particular party she would not vote for.

“I’m unhappy with their performance, their stewardship of the country, their lack of vision and their disconnection from the real issues the country faces,” she told The VOICE. “They are dinosaurs in a post-meteor world and they don’t even know they’re extinct. So therein lies my dilemma.”

She added: “(It’s either I) vote for the lesser of two evils and try swallow that bile or just not vote at all and risk sending the country to hell. But at least my conscience would be clear.”

Meanwhile, both political parties have indicated that they are confident in forming the next government. This year, 39 candidates, including 5 independents, are hoping to represent the island’s 17 constituencies in the House of Assembly.

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...

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