(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Address to the nation)
As leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the largest political party in SVG, I speak to you solemnly and sincerely about the state of affairs in our beloved country. A crisis in governance exists in our nation following the general elections that were held on November 5th.
You, the people of our nation, spoke during the election. More of you voted for the NDP than voted for the ULP. You gave the popular mandate to the NDP. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, and for your confidence in us. By your vote, you said clearly that you preferred the ideas, the plans and the vision for the country laid out by the NDP.
I am immensely proud of the campaign we ran. We put forward the best slate of candidates this country has ever seen. We put forward a plan to grow our economy, to create new jobs and to create economic opportunities for all, but especially for our young people. Our people embraced that message and voted for change, for a better future for themselves and their families.
Sadly, that change has been deferred and the ULP has retained government by being declared winner of more seats than the NDP, for under our Constitution the party with the most seats forms the Government. However, it is a fundamental and treasured principle of democracy that a Government that does not have the support of a majority of the people lacks a mandate from the people to govern them. It lacks democratic legitimacy.
For anyone to try and explain this away, as Dr. Gonsalves has tried, denies the reality of the argument that the ULP itself made in 1998, when they won the popular vote but the NDP won most of the seats. As they argued then, we assert now that the outcome of the recent elections means that those in government now have lost the moral authority to govern. This creates a crisis of governance in our nation that will only be resolved when the people are again governed by a government that has the support of a majority of the people. For now, let us look briefly at the numbers.
In 2020 as in 2015, just under 66,000 people voted in the general elections. In the recent elections, the NDP secured swings towards us in 13 of the 15 constituencies, right across the nation. Even in Dr. Gonsalves’ constituency of North Central Windward, he lost votes in every single polling station, including his hometown of Colonaire where there was a swing of over 4% in favour of the NDP. He lost those votes to a vibrant young man, Chieftain Neptune, who because of the COVID19 pandemic only had a few weeks on the ground before the vote.
Also, the ULP’s heir apparent, Camillo Gonsalves, suffered a massive rebuke in ESG, where first-time NDP candidate, Lavern Gibson Velox, made up 421 votes, to cut the 2015 lead from 607 votes to just 196 now. A swing of nearly 4 percent towards the NDP.
In South Windward, the swing to NDP was even greater, 6.5%, and Noel Dickson reduced the ULP lead from 759 in 2015 to just 217 now. In North Windward, our first-time candidate Shevern John performed brilliantly against enormous odds, in reducing the ULP lead from 323 in 2015 to just 62 now.
In our politics, these are remarkable achievements. It shows a fundamental realignment of our politics has occurred and augurs well for the movement to bring about change led by NDP. We thank you the people for the tremendous confidence and support given to our team and for voting for change. But, we must finish the job.
The declared results show that after four terms in government, the ULP clings on to power precariously, having eked out severely reduced majorities in 7 of their 9 nine seats, with the slimmest of margins in North Leeward—a single vote. Never let anyone tell you that your vote does not matter. Never tell anyone likewise. Never let anyone bargain or sell their vote to anyone because the future of the nation can literally hang on a single vote.
Of the seven seats that we held before the elections, the NDP retained six notwithstanding the fact that we secured 32,887 votes, which is 496 more than the ULP and 1,860 more than we got in 2015.
There is popular outpouring of frustration and dissatisfaction with the ULP and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. The people’s desire for change was heightened during the election campaign; Change from the oppressiveness which is being experienced as a result of the past nineteen years of rule under Gonsalves and the ULP. We heard that call and will, with increased vigour and determination, work to bring about the change we need and that you voted for. Political change, that is change in government has been deferred, but it will not be indefinitely denied.
Meanwhile, we will spare no effort to bring about the necessary economic and social improvements we offered the people during the campaign and now continue to hold out as the path to a brighter future.
The underlying condition driving the desire for change, is the fact that our people have been left in no doubt that the Gonsalves administration has become increasingly notorious for its subversion of constitutional government and the democratic process in our country. And this is compounded by blatant nepotism and cronyism, and by the lack of transparency and lack of accountability in the conduct of our nation’s affairs.
Most damning for the government and painful for our people is the widespread incidence of social and economic decay that is seen in the high unemployment rate, especially among our youth, poor health care services and rising crime. It is seen very clearly also in increasing poverty among our people.