Letters & Opinion

COUNTDOWN 21 — Election Ole Mas: State of Emergency Carnival Variant

By Earl Bousquot

IT used to be that by now, with candidates nominated, manifestos presented and less than a week to Election Day, voters would by today be discussing polls, comparing parties’ respective campaign promises versus delivery records and attending crowded public meetings nightly.

But that was then, back when things were normal…

In today’s New Normal (post COVID-19 and in Year 21 of the 21st Century) manifestos, polls and platform promises are poles apart – and not just because it’s Saint Lucia’s first COVID poll…

It’s crystal clear that COVID effects on the island’s socio-economic and political culture amid the long period of voluntary house arrest for protection against a deadly but invisible enemy has so seriously altered the elections culture that party supporters are encouraged to throw caution to the wind and put their very lives at stake, to spend the final week to the July 26 poll like with a ‘Last Lap’ for Carnival.

With no Carnival for 2020 and 2021 and July normally being Carnival Season, it’s like anxious revellers on all sides were reminded there’s no Ash Wednesday to limit their spreading of joy, so they could break the rules, abandon COVID protocols and Play Ole Mas with gay abandon — until J’Ouvert after Election Day…

Where campaigns used to be about serious mauvais-langue (bad mouthing) and applauds at mass meetings, the new vibe is motorcades with jump-up stops per constituency and clashing bands deploying their best carnival revellers to out-wine each other – for the cameras, protocols be damned!

But with the election pace moving much faster than the average carnival band on the road and days running faster than hours as the clock ticks faster to Polling Day, the ‘wine-and-gryne’ seen on TV and what went viral in Social Media postings did cause many to say the unmasked supporters virtually jumping on and over each other were ‘playing Greasy pole with their lives’…

Nevertheless, this week has also already seen two sets of history inscribed in Lucian stone.

First was the back-to-back launch of the SLP and UWP Manifestos on Sunday and Monday nights, both online; and the second is there are four candidates for Castries North, including two women, two men and three independents.

And then came the Greasy Polls…

Polls would be partly referred to in elections discussions and debates or quarrels between voters supporting different aides, but over time they became less dependable.

But polling for Polling Day has never been a reliable (far less dependent) local yardstick to measure people’s voting pulses — or impulses.

Pollsters are finding that many people everywhere still treat the matter of who they will vote for as their ‘personal business’ – and that view colours their responses.

And with good reason…

Social Media prisoners awoke from their no-longer-sleeping cells Monday morning with two polls on their phones that, apart from being quite greasy, were also poles apart: one giving the UWP a 16-1 victory, the other giving SLP 17-0.

Not that any results are ever impossible, but most people feared touching either, even with a 20-foot pole…

In today’s New Norm, Nominations Day is also nothing like it used to be back in time — when parties engaged all means to outdo each other in interpretation of application of the applicable laws.

Back in the 60s and very early 70s, Nomination Day for Local Government elections (for the Castries Town Board and Castries City Council) had their exciting moments — like when SLP candidate Neville ‘Chandelle Molle’ Cenac paid his deposit in cents and pennies.

Most saw it as just funny, but it was a planned time-consuming tactic with strategic intent, others lining-up for nominations after him having to await the cashier’s counting of every farthing in his presence — and demanding recounts not discounted…

And ‘Ring-the-Bell’ back then was a town crier called Charlie King announcing public meetings around Castries ringing his bell to introduce every loud indication of who’ll be speaking where and when – and from what time.

But none of that happens now, what with today’s $500 General Elections deposits probably mainly paid by cheques or plastic – and the bell is rung by the Prime Minister, at his pleasure.

Nominations, manifestos and polling are nothing like they used to be, but as the election countdown gathers racing pace, the competing candidates are heading for the gates to wait for the ‘Horses Off!’ signal on Monday morning, their parties betting on each to win — no matter the odds…

Except that the 2021 Election is being fought on the roads and streets, highways and byways, starting with Parade-of-the-Bands by way of online manifesto launches, followed by daily Ole Mas (highlighting how best to dump protocols and restrictions, just for fun…), ending with J’Overt on Tuesday July 27 — and continuing until Wednesday (with no ashen restrictions), no matter for which party it’ll be Alright in The Morning.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, Tic-Toc, Tiki-Tok!

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