May 2009 elections likely

With neither the Government nor the Opposition prepared to budge on the issue of how to get elections held in November again, the next General Elections will most likely occur in May 2009.

The Governor’s Office last week issued a statement confirming that the Constitution stipulates the General Elections be held every four years. Since the last elections were held in May 2005, this would mean the next ones would occur in May 2009.

The UK Government could agree, however, to have them at another time.

‘The UK Government is aware that the political parties wish to return to the traditional November election cycle,’ the press release from the Governor’s Office stated. ‘If the political parties could reach sensible consensus on the date of the elections, this would be considered carefully by the UK.’

That sensible consensus is unlikely to occur, based on statements made by members of the Government and Opposition last Friday.

In no uncertain terms, the Government said it will not agree to have the next general elections earlier than May 2009, and the Opposition said it will not agree to have them later than that date.

The last General Elections were supposed to be held in November 2004. However Hurricane Ivan hit in September of that year and then-Governor Bruce Dinwiddy postponed the elections for six months.

Both political parties are desirous of having the elections revert back to November, partially because having them in May puts it too close to the beginning of the new financial year on 1 July. Any new government coming into office in mid-May would be at a disadvantage in formulating a budget for the new financial year in such a short period of time.

The Opposition has said the elections should be held in November 2008, while the Government has suggested November 2009.

Speaking at the Cabinet press briefing on Friday, Minister Alden McLaughlin said ‘the Opposition wants to steal six months from us.’

‘It ain’t going to happen,’ commented fellow Cabinet Minister Anthony Eden. Mr. McLaughlin then echoed that statement.

‘The Government is not going to agree that [the next General Elections] are held earlier,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘The UK could insist… but it would be at major opposition from the Government.’

Minister Charles Clifford said the Opposition was just trying to create an expectation with the people that the next elections would be held in November 2008.

‘[The Opposition members] know the Constitution says 2009,’ he said. ‘If it has to be November, why not November 2009?’

Mr. McLaughlin down-played the recent controversy and said there was nothing to hash out with the Opposition on the matter.

‘What the Opposition wants is something to quarrel about; something to distract the government from what it has to do.’

Mr. McLaughlin said the Government needed its full four years to accomplish its goals.

‘We have a huge capital development programme we have to put through.’

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush claimed the matter of the next elections was discussed in a Cabinet meeting with Mr. Dinwiddy and that then Governor had told him the next elections would be held in November 2008 no matter who won.

‘What was said to me was that we would go back to November to get back on track and that there would be a shorter term [of office for this administration].

Mr. Bush acknowledged that the Government ‘had a claim to want their full term’ and have the elections in May 2009. But he still felt the elections should be held earlier.

‘They’re already in office too long,’ he said. ‘And if it went to May 2009, it still wouldn’t be back on track.’

Mr. Bush said that if the United Democratic Party had won the last elections, the current Government would be responding much differently.

‘They’d be marching in the streets and taking petitions,’ he said. ‘They would go to great extents to bring [the elections] back on track.’

The Opposition does not intend to let the elections go until November 2009, Mr. Bush said.

‘We’re certainly not going to agree to that,’ he said. ‘I expect it to go the other way.’