As Allen Chastanet took the oath of office Tuesday as St Lucia’s new prime minister, one political scientist accused his United Workers Party (UWP) of buying victory in yesterday’s general election.
A perplexed Dr Tennyson Joseph, who had earlier predicted that the then incumbent St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) of Dr Kenny Anthony would have won no fewer than 11 of the 17 seats, but would likely take 12, said money likely played a role in the UWP’s 11 to six win.
“What we have been seeing in Caribbean elections is that we are trying to analyze them based on broad issues like issues of policy, development and leadership, but truly what swings those elections is money and . . . the people who can do the money thing better are very often the ones who can in fact win an election,” the Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) told Barbados TODAY.
Stressing that he was not being unkind to the new Prime Minister, Joseph said he was simply trying to account for the outcome of yesterday’s poll.
However, pollster Peter Wickham, with whom Joseph had sparred publicly over the results of a survey conducted by Wickham’s polling company CADRES, seemingly dismissed the academic’s analysis.
Wickham, whose poll had found the election too close to call, had earlier withheld comment, telling Barbados TODAY he would await Joseph’s analysis “since he has a superior intellect and understanding of the Caribbean environment”.
However, he later attributed the SLP’s defeat to a combination of arrogance and the party’s failure to confront the pertinent issues.
“[The] St Lucia Labour Party was happy to repeat the argument that the UWP had never won an election under anyone other than [its founding leader the late Sir] John Compton . . . when the fundamental issues that were on the table were not being addressed.
“Allen Chastanet had essentially outlined a plan that he thinks would help to revive the economy and give it some life, while the SLP was focused on the extent to which he was unsuitable because he lacked ‘St Lucianness’, and that was something that . . . became very popular. I think that’s where it went wrong,” Wickham said.
Although Chastanet is St Lucian, several voters called into question the colour of his skin, and his ability to lead the country.
“He is a St Lucian, I think it’s a ridiculous concept, that nonetheless he was being told that he was not St Lucian enough. It’s one of these concocted intellectual discourses that I don’t have a lot of time for and I think that he’s essentially proven the extent to which it was a ridiculous basis on which to premise an election contest,” the pollster added.
“We had a majority of people that were desiring a change of government we had a situation where Allen Chastanet had improved in the eyes of St Lucians over the period of a year, he had doubled his support among the uncertain voters or the uncommitted voters, and for all of those reasons to me the trend in terms of where
St Lucia was going was fairly clear.”
Meantime, in today’s interview with Barbados TODAY, Joseph had difficulty comprehending how St Lucians chose Chastanet over Anthony, who he said displayed superior leadership skills and whose party presented the better candidates.
The UWI official added that, unlike most of the region’s past leaders, the new prime minister was not rooted in any movement, such as labour unions or mass-based political organizations, but came from the business class.
This, he argued, made it difficult to anticipate the social programmes Chastanet would introduce, warning that St Lucians could be fed some bitter policies like the privatization of beaches.
The UWP was engaged in a lengthy and bitter leadership struggle and infighting after Chastanet moved to replace then political leader and former Prime Minister Stevenson King who had refused to step down, with one female party activist describing Chastanet as “Machiavellian in his approach” and tending “to have a problem with women”.
King was also ousted as opposition leader and replaced by Chastanet supporter Dr Gale Rigobert, a former UWI lecturer.
However, Wickham said the party had put the in-fighting behind it. Nonetheless he warned the new administration would face the wrath of St Lucians if the bitter internal war returned.
“If the UWP descends back into confusion and disunity, then that’s where we’re gonna have some problems. But my sense is that they have learnt their lesson, they understand what is expected of them and what they have to do,” Wickham said.