Voters in St. Lucia endured heavy rains Monday as they headed to the polls to decided who should run their Eastern Caribbean nation.
The general election was called months ahead of the November constitutional deadline by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony. Anthony, who heads the Saint Lucia Labor Party, said he called the vote early because there had been an intense period of campaigning prior to the calling of the general elections, and it had become distracting.
“People got tired of the debate and were anxious to end the debate,” Anthony said.
The election pits the Labor Party against the main opposition United Workers’ Party, headed by businessman Allen Chastanet. Both are vying to win a majority of the 17 seats in parliament in order to form the new government.
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“This election has always been about marginal seats and, essentially, we are talking about five marginal seats,” Anthony said in a phone call earlier in the day as the rain started to subside. “The questions will be which of the political parties succeeded with the marginal seats.”
Anthony said it was difficult to tell how the weather may have affected voter turnout, but he and his SLP supporters remained confident they would retain power, unlike in Trinidad and Jamaica. Both nations ushered in new governments after voters went to the polls in September and February, respectively.
With the economy being a dominant issue in St. Lucia as it was in those countries, Anthony believes that St. Lucians are seeing improvements despite his acknowledgment of being the most “unpopular prime minister and minister of finance” because of his introduction of the consumption tax known as VAT, or value-added tax.
“The economy of St. Lucia has commenced a turnaround,” he said, noting that unemployment has dropped. “People have begun to see the benefits of the measure.”
Chastanet, who pushed for early elections, has opposed the VAT, promising voters to do away with it. He and his party have introduced an economic program that they say will bring relief to St. Lucians. Chastanet could not be reached for comment.