By Donald C. Peters PhD – When a nation distinctively go to the polls and elect a political party in a democratic and fair elections 18 seats to 3 something must have gone very very right for one party and something must have gone radically wrong for the other.
In the aftermath of an election sweep at the polls in the 2010 Dominica National elections by the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) over the United Workers Party (UWP) it merits that scholars of political science, history and local politicians step back and pay close scrutiny to the anatomy of this unprecedented victory by the Roosevelt Skerrit-led Dominica Labour Party.
The Victory was comprehensive and decisive resulting in the largest electoral margin in Dominica’s election history since independence: –
• The result was 18 seats to DLP 3 to UWP
• The UWP went from 7 seats in parliament to 3
• The political leader lost his seat
• The Deputy political was rejected by his constituents
• The nation sent an emphatic message to the UWP that they were not good enough to manage the country a second time
How could the UWP lose so badly?
Dominica’s so called experts of pseudo intellectuals and backyard pundits had predicted a close election and some of UWP supporters and other UWP officials had even predicted a win for the UWP. It is remarkable that those individuals never provided any evidence to support that claim of winning. Our own consulting firm continuous scientific analysis throughout the campaign indicated that the DLP would win a minimum of 15 seats and that the election was not at all close. The UWP like other parties in the Caribbean found out that there is a major difference between counting emotionally and counting scientifically. In fact, I worked the 2005 national elections in Dominica and always felt that the 2005 election was always going to be closer than the 2010.
What went wrong?
The UWP had four and a half years to plan their election strategy for the 2010 national election but got caught unprepared for Prime Minister Skerrit’s surprise announcement of the December 18th, 2009 general elections. Secondly, the UWP continued to feed their supporters a dose of fragile hope, based solely on a campaign, built around a comprehensive and relentless attack on the character of the Prime Minister. What was faulty about this approach is that this was the very same strategy utilized in the 2005 campaign. That strategy failed miserable in 2005 and it failed again in 2010. In fact, the UWP used the very same individuals that they used in 2005 to malign the Prime Minister in 2010. Only this time they used a different radio station because the station used in 2005 (Kairi FM) was no longer available to them since all of the airtime for the duration of the campaign was bought by the DLP.
The UWP entire campaign within the three week period essentially amounted to the following:
• First, there were the three blind mice on the radio who called themselves journalist. These men together with a number of the usual government bashers spent the entire election rehashing bin borbol, fertilizer borbol, where did the Prime Minister obtain the finance to build his home? Who owns the lilac villas and the speed boat?
The question the voters kept asking themselves however was what did the Prime Minister’s house have to do with providing quality health care, universal education, housing for the working class, roads for the farmers, and assistance to the elderly and help for small businesses? The answer to that question was ‘NOTHING!’ and it now appears that people would have liked the UWP to focus on telling the population what plans they had to address all of the above. No one seemed to be paying attention. The three gentlemen at Q95 continued to spew out their venom aimed solely at the Prime Minister, who all the while was simple going about his business, successfully running the country.
• The UWP provided no strategic plan for meeting the country’s need. In the eleventh hour they launched a twenty point pledge which was suppose to be the sum total of their campaign and two days before the election when people kept asking for a party manifesto the leader of the UWP Mr. Ron Green at the Newtown Savannah made his now famous pronouncement that the UWP had launched its manifesto in a new way “online.” Mr. Green did not even give a website or a web link to the manifesto. This misinformation typified the UWP’s campaign, one characterized by misinformation, Innuendos, and accusations. That very night to the scientific observer the UWP lost the elections and December 18th, 2009 became just a formality. In effect the UWP had waged a national election campaign from the studios of a radio station in the hands of three emotionally charged disc jockeys preaching to their own perennial supporters. Where was the UWP leadership? Did they endorse the utterances of these jockeys? It now appears that no one was listening, no one believed them, and in the end everyone voted against them. There is a lesson to be learnt from this Labour Party landslide!
What is to be learnt?
Political parties in the region are beginning to feel the outcome of a progressively sophisticated populace; Caribbean voters seem no longer willing to vote for a party simple because they criticize the ruling party. The voters now appear to want to know what are the political parties going to do, that will improve the citizen’s quality of life. They don’t really care if the Prime Minister has a boat or a horse or as in the case of St Lucia whether the leader is elderly. Political parties in opposition do not seem to have learnt any of those lessons, and continue to take the population for granted.
In St. Kitts for instance the People’s Action Movement (PAM) is running a campaign base on a slogan that says “it’s time for change.” Like the UWP, they have not presented a national strategic plan that has potential for improving the lives of the people of St. Kitts. They are instead banking that the slogan will work. The news may be bad for PAM. unless they are able to present a strategic comprehensive plan to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, they too will most likely lose the 2010 general elections and the Labour Party will win a fourth term.
In the early years after independence the population of the region was just beginning to understand the value of their votes and how to elect parties that are best equipped both philosophically and strategically to govern the country, but in the last decade that has changed. Today’s voters want to see a strategic plan of how a party intends to govern, how they intend to improve the economy and the quality of life of the citizens and more importantly how they plan to fund those improvements. In Dominica Prime Minister Skerrit and the DLP understood that concept very well. First, they delivered on their promises to the people, secondly they paid attention to the people who needed to be helped the most and finally, they delivered a manifesto with a strategic plan on the way forward, and together with the experience and history of fiscal responsibility and caring that they had manifested throughout their term in office, they convinced the population to re-elect them to govern. That in a nutshell is the anatomy of a landslide!
In the future, regional political parties need to listen to the voice of the people and present at all times a plan for governing, and a blueprint of how their governance will better the lives of the average citizens.
Donald C. Peters PhD is an international consultant working in the region
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the management and staff of Dominica News Online and its parent companies.
Tags: Election 2009