Letters & Opinion

You Only Live Twice!

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

This title from an age-old James Bond (Agent 007) movie aptly applies to Grenada today, as Thursday night’s election results taught, it’s a great lesson about everything to do with understanding that ‘The Masses’ are always the masters and mistresses in election politics, in and out of parliament.

The New National Party (NNP), under Dr Keith Mitchell, won all 15 seats three times, the last two successively, which would naturally have led to the ruling party entering the elections with an understandable expectation that it’s overall majority would have been a natural advantage — but that was proven not to be.

Indeed, while the NNP had the numbers advantage, it was undoubtedly clear to its leadership that Time was running (or had run) out — and thus the decision for a snap election, with Dr Mitchell begging for the electorate to bless him with one final term at age 75.

The ‘Doc’ promised to pay pensioners ‘this year’, but in the ‘next budget’; and the massive turnout of the ‘Green Machine’ on the last night of the campaign was enough to convince greenhorn analysts that the NNP had had its victory sealed, but when the final vote was counted the picture was different, as the political landscape had surely long-changed.

The analyses will come fast and furious, as analysts try to pin the reason(s) for the NNP’s loss, some blaming unavoidable factors like COVID, Supply Chain Crisis and Ukraine War effects on prices of food and fuel, while others will dig deeper for the deeply-buried domestic factors that would have contributed to the ruling party’s loss.

‘The Doc’ and his inner circle will at some time admit they saw it coming despite the brave faces, as the signs were very clear that ‘the masses’ were again ready for change, even though quietly expressed until the snap election date was announced.

Snap elections are usually called when the ruling party feels it has no choice, or a chance to outdo the opposition; and while such polls have been won in circumstances where the ruling party’s analysis was correct, this was definitely not the case in Grenada, where a new and emerging younger electorate seems to have decided it was time for change to a new and younger leadership.

Naturally, Age has no place in politics, but Time and History always matter — and it’s quite clear that Grenadian voters in 2022, at home and abroad, had decided (for whatever reasons) that ‘The Doc’ and the NNP had to go now.

Here again, the lesson is that at the end of the day it’s ‘the masses’ who decide – the same ‘masses’ that parties and politicians always all say they will ‘represent’ and ‘respect’ and ‘work for’ if and when elected.

But the masses, as The Electorate, always have the power, ability and sense to make and break governments — and remind parties who’s in charge.

Unfortunately, traditional politicians have always seen and treated ‘the masses’ as lesser people who need to be represented by ‘brighter’ people who always claim to be forever acting ‘in the people’s interest’, but don’t always deliver as promised when elected.

For example: The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) in 1997 came the closest to winning all the seats when it won 16 of 17 under the dynamic leadership of then-young Dr Kenny D. Anthony, who gave-up his job as CARICOM’s General Counsel in Georgetown in 1996 to accept an invitation to lead the major Opposition party into the 1997 general elections.

But the SLP’s 16-1 victory was reduced by the same ‘masses’ to 14-3 in 2001 and the SLP lost 11-6 to the United Workers Party (UWP) in 2006, election results being alternated between the two major parties with each winning the same 11-6 majority (SLP in 2011 and UWP in 2016) — and the masses again upgrading the SLP with a 13-4 in 2021.

The SLP’s 13-4 win has now been translated into a 15-2 leadership in the parliament for SLP, after it invited two successful Independent candidates (both former UWPs and including a former Prime Minister) to join the current Cabinet.

Dr Mitchell accepted defeat and is now nursing his political wounds, even with the unerasable memory of NNP setting a regional record as being the only party to have won all the seats three times.

But as Saint Lucia has shown, winning all (or nearly all) is no guarantee of perpetuity in power, as, at the end of the day, it’s always about how and what the party in power does within the five-year term that decides whether it will be re-elected.

Take Barbados, where Prime Minister Mia Mottley has led the Labour Party (BLP) to two consecutive all-out general victories, making the island a Republic within months of again taking home all the bacon.

Of course, the jury is still out as to whether the BLP would have won a referendum among Bajans on the issue of breaking with the British monarchy, but the fact is that now that the island has two women as Prime Minister and President, that unique and distinctly admirable reality does not automatically mean Bajans will re-elect the BLP with all seats for a third consecutive time.

As Grenada has clearly shown, once again, its never about winning all the seats, but more about what the winning party does with all the power – and most importantly, the extent to which ‘The Masses’ feel the ruling party they gave all that power is or has been using it in their interest.

This is where the proverbial ‘masses’ know and prove who’s in charge — on Election Day, which is really the Judgment Day for every politician and party who or which claims to be always operating ‘in the people’s interests…’ or ‘for the benefit of the masses…’

Indeed, Grenada has taught those who haven’t learned – the hard way – that, like the ever-living James Bond, you only live twice!

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