Bousquet’s Bulletin: ‘Five for Five’ or Six for Nine?

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Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

By Earl Bousquet

Before and since the five-year anniversary of Saint Lucia’s last general elections expired last month, Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians and election candidates of the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) have been going heads-over-heels to convince voters to break with tradition and give their party a ten-year term to implement its 2016 promises.

Saint Lucians wax poetic over UWP’s 2021 election manifesto: ‘Five for Five’ or Six for Nine?

Indeed, with the government’s popularity ratings not encouraging, virtually every political appointee in the public service has become a ‘political operative in the media.

Government ministers also have 24/7 access to what looks and sounds like their own TV station, plus 24/7 access to the state-owned National Television Network (NTN).

Ditto the social media, where the UWP also has a paid permanent presence these days.

The UWP’s yellow stamp is also conspicuous in government activities being promoted in the media – wherever voters watch, read or listen – all to paint and show the outgoing administration as ‘the best thing that ever happened to Saint Lucia Since Independence.’

The prime minister’s pitch has been that no one could or should have realistically expected his government to implement all its 2016 promises in only five years, so he and his party need ‘another five’.

But some of the balls being bowled by others wearing the same yellow football jerseys on TV make it sound more like the island’s 2016 – 2021 experience has done so nice, the UWP must be allowed to do it twice!

As June ended and July started the beginning of the end of the life of the current parliament, it became clear the ruling party’s leadership had decided to place all bets on directly appealing to its base.

They, therefore, launched a series of weekend ‘Flambeau Forums’ calling on ‘Mamai Flambeau’ to come out and vote their party back in.

‘Five for Five’ or Six for Nine?

That much was clear in last weekend’s online launch of the UWP’s 2021 elections manifesto called ‘Five for Five’ – much akin to the ‘Five to Stay Alive’ it presented ahead of the 2016 polls, but this time a direct appeal for ten years to deliver what it didn’t in five.

The debate this past week was therefore mainly over whether ‘Five to Stay Alive’ did ‘Keep Saint Lucia Alive’.

With almost daily exposures of what is being presented online as officially-denied copies of ‘Direct Purchase Awards’ and ‘Cabinet Conclusions’ that would effectively enrich persons considered government and ruling-party ‘friends’, the news is again taking the usual pre-elections spin, as even the ‘new gurus’ are finding it impossible to explain all the allegations away in convincing ways.

The charges coming faster than the COVID virus mutates and new variants of allegations of corruption, nepotism, abuse of privileges, sinking of government funds and greasing of election pumps emerging by the week; talk show hosts with yellow ties (and bowties) are virtually seeing red.

Everything is at play and on display here every day – from simple sums to profound mathematical problems – as elections propagandists work overtime to convince ‘Mamai Flambeau’ that their party has indeed delivered on its 2016 promises and now needs their endorsement more than even, for another five years, failing which there’ll be nothing left to add or subtract – or divide.

The arithmetical assessment is that with almost half of those who vote always vote UWP, all the party has to do is for its Shepherd to gather his flock and apply the electoral variant of the Herd Immunity theory by injecting enough among them with enough zeal to forget everything and just remember to turn up at the polling booth on election day.

The outgunned Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has been matching the UWP’s Social Media campaign the best an opposition party can in the circumstances; its online Town Hall and ‘Market Steps’ meetings now being taken to constituencies and the SLP leader issuing more statements of gubernatorial intent as the popularity pendulum continues to swing in ways that give him and his party hope.

Here too, the UWP’s calculation seems to be that if it can sew or sow enough doubt in the labour supporters’ minds about ‘the maverick Richard Frederick’, that might in some way help immunize the UWP against his stinging weekly disclosures and allegations of corruption involving government ministers and political confidantes, officers and offices.

Meanwhile, SLP supporters continue to accuse the government of engaging in political favoritism and nepotism, rival supporters have started clashing physically (over painting rival election slogans on roads) and both sides have so started breaching COVID protocols to campaign; that the police have now relaxed restrictions to allow for more campaigning with less stringent application of protocols, including authorized weekly motorcades and rallies to be guided by appointed party agents and monitored by the police.

Indeed, as per usual, Derek Walcott’s Saint Lucian cousins – whatever the weather or pressure, in good times and bad – also continue to wax poetic.

A close friend who daily monitors the national political pulse called last Sunday after watching the ‘Flambeau Forum’ to say: ‘I don’ know about you, but that Five-for-Five thing more sounds like a Six-for-Nine.

‘I think the prime minister should just call the damn election and let the chips fall and call that George – or Michael…’

She having previously argued strongly for ‘a set election date, every five years’, I asked why she was now ‘in such a hurry’ (to vote).

Her reply: ‘The way things [are] going right now, I feel we should have a general election every year, just to get to hear what the government is doing – or plans to do – instead of waiting another five years like the last five…’

‘I think if they call the House of Assembly [parliament] meeting on Tuesday morning (July 6), I will go out there and beat pan in Constitution Park loud enough so that the prime minister can hear me…’

At which point, I ended the talk and started thinking seriously about penning this piece, quietly.

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