Douglas Seeks To Play His Last Hand To Stay In Power

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What Do The Upcoming Elections Hold In Store

Political Analysis
By Lennox Walker
June 24, 2009  

For the many observers in St Kitts-Nevis who are surprised that Denzil Douglas has not called the General Elections due by November just yet, maybe has not been following closely.  

Douglas would have loved to have gone to the polls by now, as some of his advisors have already told him that the longer he remains, it is perhaps the more difficult it gets.  

The island’s crushing crime problem for which the government seem to have no clue for the time being is not helping the re-election bid of a Prime Minister who is facing a an electorate  weary of a man seeking a fourth consecutive term.  

In the leadership issue, lies the challenge for Douglas, who has some in his party wondering quietly ““ and in one case a former minister, aloud ““ if he has not stayed on for too long.  

Douglas’ St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party now controls seven of the eight seats on St Kitts ““ even though it’s an 11 seat parliament. There are three more on Nevis.   Some initial polling and internal party analysis has shown that the Labour Party is in danger of losing three of the seats it current holds, and a fourth is also worrying tottering.  

That is if the boundaries remain as they are.  

Having alienated some of his stalwarts, and having had some of his key players privately expressing concern, Douglas believes the other advice ““ that his last key card is t seek to get the boundaries changed.  

The changes in boundaries are being overseen by the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which is in theory an independent body ““ though in St Kitts where politics run deep nothing is really “independent”.  

The commission is stacked with people openly sympathetic to the ruling party, and has a policy of refusing to respond to opposition queries about the sanctity of the electoral list.  

Proposals for the changing of the boundaries are coming soon to the island’s parliament under the guise of electoral reform.   In a press conference last week, Prime Minister Douglas acknowledged as much, saying that they are awaiting a report from the Commission before he decides when to call general elections.  

Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, who is also safe in his seat, had previously declared at a public meeting that “the boundaries will change,” bragging that this will be sued as a mechanism to save the Labour Party.  

Effectively, changing the boundaries has become the unofficial re-election strategy of the St Kitts Nevis Labour Party 

The ruling party is bleeding

PREVIOUS: Douglas’ powerplay

The draft we have seen of the proposals indicates that leader of the People’s Action Movement Lindsay Grant and Deputy Eugene Hamilton could be the ones most adversely affected.  

It appears that the Commission will seek to move strong polling areas out of their current constituencies, and saddle them with stronger Labour polling divisions from other areas.  

Grant and Hamilton are believed to be leading the charge to win their seats under the current configurations, as is Roy Fleming in a divided Central Basseterre, where the incumbent ruling party MP has openly rebuked its leader and has failed to publicly support the party’s new recruit.   The three will conceivably join Shawn Richards, the current lone MP, in a new parliament.

The ruling party is also bleeding in Basseterre East where Glenroy Blanchette is also a potential MP for PAM.  

There are differences in opinion about the legality of a last minute move to change electoral boundaries. The opposition says if it happens, it will be challenged in court.  

What is clear is that it is unprecedented in CARICOM, and at least it goes against the spirit of the laws that govern the elections, which could have Douglas facing a moral dilemma should he win under such circumstances.  

Douglas remains strong in his own constituency ““ there is no chance of him losing his seat — but his effect on the national vote is what some in his party is bringing into question.  

Under the current scenario ““ Douglas could lose the poll 3-5 on St Kitts ““ or have it tied 4-all.  

If any of the scenarios play out, he is not likely to be Prime Minister after the vote.  

In scenario number two current Central Basseterre MP Dwyer Astaphan, even though he is not likely run could become kingmaker.

Astaphan has already floated an idea of a national unity government excluding Douglas, who he has openly dubbed a “vindictive and imperious” leader, and has just stop short of telling people not to vote for some of his Labour Party colleagues.   He however keeps close ties with a number of key MPs, who have refused to join other party stalwarts in criticizing Astaphan’s latest stands.  

In a tight finish, those bonds could become crucial.

And Douglas is determined that it does not come to that.

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