Ralph Gonsalves retains power in St Vincent
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuesday, December 14, 2010 – Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has led the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to victory for the third time in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, it cannot be said that the ULP has been given a clear mandate to rule as preliminary results indicate that the party failed to retain its 12-seat majority for the first time in three election cycles. Instead, early indicators are that the Gonsalves-led party won a slim majority with eight seats in the House of Assembly, while the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) more than doubled its share to seven seats from three. The Green Party also contested 13 of the 15 seats up for grabs but failed to secure any.
NDP leader Arnhim Eustace comfortably retained his East Kingstown seat but it is now left for the party to decide whether the 65-year-old development economist and former Caribbean Development Bank director will be the one to lead his party into the next battle now constitutionally due in five years.
NDP hopefuls had banked on the islands' economic hardships and suspicions over Gonsalves (also known as “The Comrade” by ULP faithful) ties to Leftist leaning Governments in Venezuela, China, Iran and Libya, as being enough of a deterrent. The party's candidates decried Gonsalves as having an autocratic style of leadership and pledged to weaken the country's ties with Venezuela and Cuba. Speculation was also rife that yesterday’s high voter turnout was a signal that a change in administration could occur.
However, as Gonsalves predicted, the ULP won a third consecutive term in office as voters seemingly agreed with his campaign argument that he was best suited to lead the country of 110,000 people as it tries to rebound from the global economic slump. The attorney-at-law trumpeted on the campaign trail a record of poverty reduction and improved access to education while arguing that his forging deeper ties with international partners such as Venezuela and Cuba was part of his strategy for fiscal survival on a tighter budget.
Under his leadership, St. Vincent was accepted as a member of the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America bloc that paved the way for St Vincent to receive Venezuelan oil on concessionary terms at the height of escalating world fuel prices. Iran also sent US$7 million in aid for several local development projects in 2008.
The Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community both sent observer missions to monitor the elections.
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