THE general elections are over, Philip Joseph Pierre on Wednesday was sworn in as Saint Lucia’s 12th Prime Minister. The call now is for the candidates and their supporters to put aside their differences and work together to advance the interest of Saint Lucia.
This is the opening of a new chapter in the ongoing development of Saint Lucia, one where we hope that the newly elected government recognises that the division sowed during the short election campaign is of the past, and that it is the government of all the people and not just those who voted for it last Monday, as was noted by Prime Minister Pierre when he was sworn in.
We take time to congratulate all those who participated in the election campaign for keeping it devoid of any serious acts of violence. Despite a number of matters listed by the Organisation of American States (OAS) and other election observation missions, such as the need for a redefinition of constituency boundaries to comply with the prevailing legislation to ensure a more equitable distribution of electors per constituency, the elections were free, fair and peaceful.
This should serve as no surprise to the world as Saint Lucia has a history of peaceful transferal of power. What came as a surprise, however, was the magnitude of the win by the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP). It was an overwhelming and comprehensive victory not envisioned by even the most experienced political strategists amongst us. One writer on Facebook described it as “a tsunami that flattened the United Workers Party (UWP).”
The rejection of the policies, plans and stewardship of the Allen Chastanet administration by the electorate was emphatic. The pendulum for change swung decisively against the UWP. This in itself is mind boggling bearing in mind that the election campaign was devoid of its tradition methods, was held during a pandemic, had perhaps the largest number of independents and a low voter turn-out.
Prior to the official start of the campaign there was no visible island-wide dislike of the government; infrastructural works were in full swing, evidence of the tsunami-like swing to the opposition was not visible, and while opposition to the government was loud, constant and gaining in trajectory, the Chastanet administration appeared steady, at least from the outside.
What happened on Monday to transform the UWP of today to a poor version of what it was in 2016?
Indeed, there are lessons to be learnt from Monday’s elections, particularly by the UWP as clearly, they rubbed the electorate the wrong way which contributed to their downfall.
Obviously, the clear lesson all politicians must learn and which most of them never do is that they are elected into office to make life better for the people they represent. Many fail to live up to that simple lesson.
While there are many factors which contributed to the UWP downfall, the incomplete St Jude Hospital (no reasonable excuse can be given for its incomplete state today); the no show of a promised better health system; the rising costs of food items and fuel, the lack of a significant dent in unemployment and the glaring shortcomings of our education system which were exposed by the coronavirus, could be viewed as some of the factors responsible.
Granted, the government took a hard knock when the COVID-19 pandemic introduced itself to Saint Lucia, however, the government could not get that message across to those who mattered most at the polls.
The Philip Joseph Pierre administration must also learn from the message Saint Lucians sent out last Monday evening to politicians who hold the reins of power, because for them, it will not be alright in the morning, as was shown last Monday.
And so, there is much work to be done to keep the country moving in the direction it should be moving for the betterment of all. The country needs the support of all its citizens to move forward. We hope that the political war of words that heated up social media during the campaign is a thing of the past and that all Saint Lucians put their shoulders to the wheel to help steer Fair Helen unto a path of progress with COVID-19 by its side, a virus we have no choice but to live with.