Letters & Opinion

A Deputy Essential!

Part 2: Candidate Elections and Selections

“Touching people where it matters is what attracts or distances voters on Election Day. If the majority feel they have been touched by the Government of the day where it matters most or best since the last General Elections, they will vote accordingly. If not, the floating middle will naturally float away.”

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Having established that Deputy Leaders are essential to political parties, some of the other essentials that come with their positions also need careful consideration ahead of General Elections, such as Candidate Selection.

The two major parties have started their candidate selection processes, which processes vary and are not standard or based on known operating procedures. In some cases they are silently selected by inner party committees, in other cases through divisive competitive processes.

History has shown that the parties’ sole criteria for selection has always been the proposed candidate’s ability to win. However, candidates must also have qualities that will allow them to serve the party and country effectively in office to deliver on election promises after a victory.

Candidates should also be selected who will remain as enthusiastic and committed to serving supporters and constituents after the elections, whether the party wins or loses.

Candidates should also be willing to accept that not all MPs on the winning side will or should automatically become Cabinet ministers.

Candidates should each be willing to accept the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament, as well as to effectively serve on Parliamentary Committees.

Difficult and Divisive

Selection processes can become difficult, even divisive, when enough isn’t done to ensure that in cases where there is more than one candidate, members supporting contenders during selection elections will together throw all their support behind the winning candidate.

Parties should also avoid the ‘politically correct’ electoral window-dressing of ensuring mechanical quotas or engaging in social engineering for presentation of slates. Instead, the primary objective should always be about selecting and presenting A Capable Team that will be able to serve everyone between elections with the same zeal reflected in the campaign, in or out of office.

Parties must also avoid entering into meaningless ideological debate or demagogic statistical comparisons that do nothing to strengthen the party’s capacity to build and present the most cohesive team possible, uniting around a common platform.

Democratic Centralism has its place between elections, but in an election campaign, differences (major or minor) at leadership levels always need to be sunk to the lowest possible depths, in the interest of broadest national party unity.

Realism

Realism must always prevail.

Parties must also be careful about how they assess their chances and not base their conclusions on just what people say (or are said to have said), but on real facts and figures, real experiences and realistic assessments based both on what is and what is not.

For Example: If the results of the last three general elections here are to be regarded as a natural national norm, there’ll be yet another change after the next general elections. But nothing is ever normal in politics, so any such assessment has to be based solely on a party’s ability to gather the necessary votes to ensure a clear victory.

Principles and Policies

Principles and policies do matter in election campaigns.

Parties differ in their approaches to gathering voting support ahead of elections, some selecting to ‘buy’ votes through monetary or material offerings before and on Election Day, others electing to earn support through persuasion and persistent identification with popular cause, in or out of office. But there will also always be in all parties those with more access to finance than others and therefore better able to easier pay bills of any nature.

What matters most is for parties and candidates to avoid establishing reputations for using money as a quid pro quo for votes because it naturally creates and encourages continuing cycle. But worst of all, any candidate who will seek to buy votes with cash is insulting the intelligence of the voter, which is why every voter’s approach to any party or candidates that seeks to buy their loyalty should be to: ‘Eat them out, Drink them out, Smoke then out — and Vote them out or Keep them out!

Elusive Middle Ground

Mere arithmetic reveals that it’s always just a few thousand votes that divide the two major parties at the end of the final count on Election Night. This Middle Ground can sometimes be misinterpreted as the Middle Class.

Once upon a time Saint Lucians voted in their class interests under colonialism. But people’s decisions today as to who they’ll vote for here are now based less on class than on self-interest.

Touching people where it matters is what attracts or distances voters on Election Day. If the majority feel they have been touched by the Government of the day where it matters most or best since the last General Elections, they will vote accordingly. If not, the floating middle will naturally float away.

But this Middle Ground is always both elusive and unpredictable, as they tend to be more easily persuaded by considerations of personal continuity like job assurance) than political arguments about policy intent.

Parties therefore have to be careful ‘to the max’ in how that Middle Ground is approached, as they too will have made their minds up long before Election Day as to which party they’ll support.

Beneficial Vagaries

There are also several vagaries that have traditionally benefited the parties, but which must no longer continue to be taken for granted.

Sadly, only lip service is being paid by parties to the Youth Vote between polls; and ahead of elections, campaign planners only cater most for youth on board, not having invested sufficient political capital into mechanically harvesting youth support through consistent organization between elections.

The youthful majority have yet realized the political value of their ID cards and their ability to influence change on Election Day, so they continue to leave their fate in the hands of adults and elders — until they wake-up.

Also benefiting the parties is the historical failure of independent candidates and third parties, which have never become more than just the usual suspects or non-surprising names and faces gathered around or behind symbols.

And then there are always the usually desperate politically homeless chicken hawks and/or carrion crows ceaselessly hovering above the political fray, seeking where and when best to pounce and prey — at the last minute — as a wounded nation creeps faster and closer to E-Day.

Ultimate Deputy Essentials…

All the above has everything to do with astute political leadership — and here again the role of Deputy Leaders is absolutely and essentially vital to ensure the Political Leader and the Party are at one in implementing an agreed plan on the basis of a common approach to the campaign and what happens after elections.

During election campaigns, it is therefore vital and essential that Deputy Political Leaders with intentions to eventually evolve to the very top put their absolute ambitions on pause, in the wider interest of preserving party unity at a time when it’s needed most.

No Political Leader should have any reason to wonder or worry about any Deputy Leader; and no Deputy Leader should encourage or promote discussion or debate during an election campaign about who or which would make a better Political Leader, Prime Minister or Opposition Leader.

In any party, that will be nothing but a guaranteed recipe for political disaster, even electoral suicide.

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