By Lincoln DePradine
GEORGE’S, Grenada – Parliament has been dissolved in Grenada ahead of general elections that will be held March 13.
For several weeks, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell had been hinting at unveiling the election date. He finally did so last Sunday at a mass rally here of his ruling New National Party (NNP).
“Tomorrow starts today. Tonight is not the end of anything, but it is the beginning of everything,’’ Mitchell said in announcing the election date. “I go have a lot fun in the next few weeks. Together, we can fight for the weak; together, we can hold each other’s hands; and together, we shall keep moving.’’
This year’s general election bears at least one similarity to other national polls held over the last quarter century in Grenada: it’s going to be a straight fight between the NNP and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). None of the other registered political parties – and there are many – stands a chance of winning the election and forming the government.
The NDC is trying to rebound from a humiliating 15-0 defeat in 2013. It entered the 2013 election as the governing party, controlling 11 of 15 seats at the dissolution of parliament. But, on polling day five years ago, they were ousted from office by the Mitchell-led NNP.
“The NDC is ready to contest the (March 13) election,’’ said current party leader Nazim Burke. “We are ready to win and we are ready to govern.’’
Burke, addressing supporters at a political meeting here last Sunday, said: “We must rally every single person, capable of voting against the New National Party, to come out and vote.’’ March 13 is “liberation day’’, said Burke, claiming that it’s the “beginning of the march to freedom’’.
The political events of the NNP – including last Sunday’s – have taken on a carnival-like atmosphere, with costume-clad supporters, dancing by Prime Minister Mitchell and his supporters, and singing by popular Grenadian calypsonians.
“At a time when our country is crying out for leadership, he’s wining down the place,’’ complained Burke, the former finance minister who lost his seat in 2013. “Sisters and Brothers, wining cannot solve the problems of our nation.’’
Burke is demanding that Mitchell should invite international bodies, such as the Organization of American States, “to come to Grenada to ensure that we have a free and fair election’’.
Both the NNP and NDC are fielding a full slate of 15 candidates for the March 13 polls.
Among the NNP’s candidates is lawyer Peter David, who joined the party about four years ago following his expulsion from the NDC.
David, a former Grenada foreign affairs and tourism minister, was an MP from 2003 to 2013, while serving as NDC general secretary. He did not contest the elections of five years ago.
Prime Minister Mitchell, in his address Sunday, described Grenada as a “blessed’’ country, where “our project for oil and gas exploration, I am telling you this, looks very exciting’’. He also promised that an NNP administration “shall restore public officers’ pension’’, and plans, too, on implementing National Health Insurance.
“People must not die because they don’t have the money,’’ he said. “Once we are finished restoring pensions, and implementing the National Health Insurance, we shall boldly move to implement an Unemployment Insurance Scheme, Sisters and Brothers. In other words, when people lose their jobs, their family must not go hungry’’.
March 13 is the anniversary of the 1979 Grenada Revolution, when the New Jewel Movement overthrew the government of then Prime Minister Eric Gairy.