In just a few short weeks Grenadians, Carrioucians and Petite Martiniquians will go to the polls to elect one of the two major political center-right parties. The incumbent ruling New National Party (NNP) that trounced the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party four years in a political rout that saw the party, led by veteran Caribbean politician, Dr. Keith Claudius Mitchell, sweep all 15 seats. As the March 13th 2018 elections loom large the stakes have never been higher for both parties and Grenadians in general.
For Mitchell, 71, this may be his political swan song. I can't see him contesting another election at 75 years old. For the younger NDC leader, Nazim Burke, he desperately wants to burnish his political credentials as the man who unseated Mitchell and broke the stranglehold on politics that Mitchell and his NNP has had for over 17 years. Mitchell is Grenada's longest serving prime minister and he has his fair share of detractors and supporters.
Despite some cosmetic and strategic differences both parties are basically center-right organizations (political parties that lean to the right of the left--right political spectrum, but are closer to the center than other right-wing variants). The erratic and enigmatic Mitchell brings long years of political experience and a ruthless, bellicose, and combative style of politics that sometimes give many Grenadian pause. Burke, a product of the Grenada Revolution, is much more nuanced politically and calmly analytical, perhaps a consequence of his legal training. His unflappable personality, a la Barack Obama, is perhaps his greatest political asset against Mitchell. Burke can get under his skin since Mitchell has a prickly and egotistical personality.
While the political crystal ball is still hazy as to the possible outcome of the elections, I start from the position that voters are never eager to ditch the incumbent, unless he or she does something so egregious that they have no choice. Certainly, there is a long list of wrongdoing, corrupt practices, and underhanded dealings that can be placed squarely at the doorstep of Mitchell and this political cronies and hangers on. It is my humble opinion that Grenadian opposition leaders routinely underestimate Mitchell who is a bareknuckle political brawler. Burke will have to up this game in this regard.
There are many who decry the fact that the campaign so far has not been one of issues germane to the people of Grenada. That's Mitchell's style -- bombast, name-calling, rabblerousing, and innuendo that obfuscate the true state of affairs. Its smoke and mirrors politics orchestrated and cheorgraphed by a master politician. Burke and the NDC will have a fight on their hands to pin down the NNP eel and gut it.
But here is ample ammunition to choose from to bombard Mitchell and the NNP with. Here is a partial listing:
The Dorcet Charles judgment, $1 million
Dipcorn judgment $16 million
The first stadium that Prime Minister Mitchell promised would not cost the Grenadian taxpayer a cent stuck Grenadians with a $16 million bill
Three much touted desalination plants that cost taxpayers over $10 million have not produced one drop of water to date
The Hog Island project with E.J. Miller where magically more than $30 million vanished in thin air
The St Marks poultry shenanigan that produced absolutely nothing - not even a feather -- and untold millions allegedly disappeared
$26 million disappeared from Marketing & Importing Board
The telephone Call Center, over $20 million disappeared
And there are many more allegations of financial magic and trickery that Mitchell and his crowd are now exceedingly adept at, especially making money vanish as if in a puff of smoke. This is the kind of opening that the NDC MUST EXPLOIT to the fullest if it is to convince Grenadians to trust them with the reigns of political power.
In any political contest between two similar (substance but not style) political parties, an election is never about convincing one side's supporters to jump ship. That's stupid because in the end many voters will seek their own personal interests and vote with this in mind. So the Grenadians that will support the NNP and Dr. Mitchell are already set and in place. Likewise, the NDC supporters and voters have already made up their minds. So if the NDC is to beat Mitchell the party MUST reach new voters (young and first time voters), independent minded people, and those that are still undecided. This calls for a skilled use of resources, manpower and time.