by Caribupdate Weekly
It’s only days away from the end of what seems to have been an interminably long general election campaign. It’ll be recalled that on 28 January, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who also is the leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP), announced Tuesday, 13 March as election day. But politicians on all sides, with an eye on the general election, had been engaged in unofficial campaigning for many months before.
The Nazim Burke-led National Democratic Congress (NDC), anxious to demonstrate that it had regrouped from its 15-0 clobbering by the NNP in 2013, was demanding that Dr Mitchell ‘call the thing’ – meaning the election – saying the party was ready. But the NDC kept stumbling through a series of public relations gaffes that seemingly backfired, including Mr Burke’s cutlass-wielding video to soften his image. Another video – which the NDC claimed it did not produce – depicting us as a hunger-stricken nation with vagrants scavenging from garbage cans; and also the NDC, after clamouring for elections, telling the Grenadian people that they’ll need their help because the party is short on money. “We invite Grenadians to support our party by assisting us with funds. We are way below the required amount, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to invite all Grenadians who will like to see a change, who will like to see an improvement in the economic situation,’’ NDC chairman Vincent Roberts said at a news conference last November.
As far as this election is concerned, the die has been cast; all eligible voters, in our estimation, have had ample time to scrutinise and listen to the NNP and NDC, and also to the remainder of the fringe parties and independent candidates that are contesting the polls on Tuesday. Few minds – if any at all – are going to be changed, between now and Tuesday, on how people are going to vote.
Well-known Caribbean pollster Peter Wickham, who has sampled the Grenadian population so as to make an informed projection on the possible results of the polls, has reported that the NNP is in a good position to be returned to office. But, he has cautioned the NNP against complacency.
However, the NDC must know, from its own internal examination of polling data, of the monumental task it’s confronting in winning the election of 2018. To pull off a victory, the party must get all of its base to vote NDC on Tuesday; it also must entice very many former NDCites – who abandoned the party for one reason or another in 2013 – to return to the fold and vote for the National Democratic Congress. In addition, an NDC victory is also contingent on the party wooing almost every new voter to cast their ballot in favour of the opposition party on Tuesday.
Still, with all these challenges to winning a majority and forming the next government of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the leadership of the NDC remains upbeat and portrays an optimistic image.
Irrespective of which side of the political spectrum a person sits, Caribupdate Weekly urges Grenadians to exercise their democratic rights and vote! Let no one or nothing impede you or try to stop you from voting for the candidate and/or party of your choice. We implore law enforcement officers of the Royal Grenada Police Force to deal swiftly and forcefully with anyone who violates any aspects of electoral laws, or who attempts to tamper with the voting process. We do sincerely hope that pre-election talk of deliberately slowing down the voting process and of behaving ‘ratchety’ at polling stations remains just that – talk!
And on Tuesday evening, after the results are made public, we expect winners to be magnanimous in victory; the losers – individual candidates and parties – be gracious in defeat, concede and congratulate your opponents.
The exercise of registering and voting in Grenada has undergone massive positive changes and improvements since our independence in 1974. The system isn’t perfect; but, none is. Nonetheless, the suggestion that any individual or group or organisation can ‘thief’ an election in a western democracy – Grenada included – is pure fantasy and extreme fear-mongering.
There just are too many mechanisms in place to steal an election. There is voter ID; the voters’ lists is published and republished; it’s revised and reviewed; and then, revised and reviewed again. Hence, to pull off election thievery, an individual or group would have to get every member of the police force in on the plot, for example; almost every member of the Parliamentary Elections Office must collude and conspire for any such hanky-panky to succeed; and so, too, must every returning officer.
But, as we continue to update in an effort to improve our electoral process and electoral laws, there are some issues we suggest that the powers-that-be ought to consider. One is the use of the stained finger. While the staining of the index finger may have been a necessary measure to prevent fraudulent voting in the past, we believe it is not now required. As we noted earlier, there are other measures now in place, other checks and balances, to avoid fraud on polling day. There’s also the question of hygiene and possible fungus infection with hundreds of people dipping their fingers in the same well of ink.
None of the developed countries of the world, as far as we are aware, engage in finger-staining at elections; this practice of cattle-branding appears reserved for Third World nations like Grenada.
We also look askance at the law forbidding the sale and use of alcohol on election day. Fundamentally, this colonial-derived law treats the adult-voting population of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique as mere children and nincompoops.
The law is saying to us: “We don’t trust you to be responsible on election day. We are afraid that you will drink yourself into a drunken stupor and either forget to vote; or, you may vote for the wrong candidate or party. We also are concerned about you, poor natives, involving yourselves in alcohol-induced rioting on election day.’’
Let’s abolish the law and also get rid of the practice of ink-stained fingers at general elections in Grenada.