THE LANDSLIDE victory of the Keith Mitchell administration in Grenada’s general election on Tuesday marked a continuation of what has become a strong tradition of democratic rule. But at the same time, the result poses fresh challenges for the tri-island nation.
Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) won all 15 seats of the Grenadian House of Representatives. It was the third time his party achieved such an unequivocal victory. But Tuesday’s victory — Mitchell’s fifth as NNP political leader — is even more impressive given the fact that it was only two elections ago that he was voted out of office after facing corruption allegations that had dogged him since 2002.
In the build-up to the 2008 election, it was alleged that Mitchell had accepted a US$500,000 bribe placed in a Louis Vuitton briefcase by an American official in exchange for a diplomatic appointment.
A commission of inquiry later cleared Mitchell, but his party was also accused of wastage and mismanagement and he lost support among the electorate. This time around, the general election campaign was nowhere near as dramatic for the incumbent. “I don’t feel the pressure because I am in the seat and I know what the plans are,” Mitchell said earlier this week. “Therefore, I feel very confident I will meet the aspirations of the people of this country.” To whom much is given, much is expected in return.
The NNP will have to ensure that it is able to maintain its equilibrium in the absence of an opposition presence within the Parliament. Further, it will have to make room for the 23,000 people (out of 78,000) who voted against it.
Grenada’s economic growth is steady but is slowing. It is also one of the Caribbean nations that faces considerable danger annually during the hurricane season. The impact of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan was devastating. The new government will have to stimulate development, improve the supply chain for commodities and bolster the economy, as well as continue efforts to lobby for international measures to address climate change.
The issue of campaign financing of political parties is also outstanding and recommendations from the electoral observation mission of the Organisation of American States should be carefully studied and implemented.
Tuesday’s election was also historic for another reason. It marked an increase in the number of female MPs in the Grenada Parliament. Overall, the number of female candidates moved from eight out of 46 in 2013 to 11 out of 46.
However, about 50 per cent of the membership of the House of Representatives is now female. That’s a good thing in the battle for gender parity throughout the region.