At the start of this brand New Year, THE NEW TODAY would wish to extend the best of wishes to all and sundry especially our readers, contributors, vendors, advertisers and supporters who have stood at our side over the years and gave full support to us.
This newspaper in short order has emerged as the leading weekly publication on the island despite attacks from powerful quarters that often refer to it as a “scandal sheet”.
THE NEW TODAY anticipates that 2017 will be an Election Year in Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique and the political parties are expected to intensify their work among “The Masses” in the coming weeks.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), now under the leadership of former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke, would be fancying its chances at the polls based on the outcome of the November 24, 2016 Constitutional Referendum.
The electorate did not heed the pleas of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and voted unanimously against all of the seven bills placed on the Ballot paper.
It would have been a bitter blow and pill to swallow for the Grenadian leader who three years earlier led his New National Party (NNP) for the second time to a crushing 15-0 victory against his opponents.
The Prime Minister would be mindful of the fact that he was in a similar position in 1999 and by the time of the 2003 general election was on the brink of losing as he scrambled to hold onto power 8-7 in a nail biting finish.
The strategists for Congress would have looked closely at the voting pattern in the Constitutional Referendum and conclude quite rightly that the NNP can only count on two safe seats in the country – St. George North-west of the Prime Minister and St. Mark’s of Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen.
It looks like all of the 13 other seats are up for grabs and the outcome might be decided on the political work done on the ground level by the two camps.
The opposition will have to hammer away at the NNP and force its candidates to explain to their constituents the controversial “Rights and Freedoms” bill that was crushed in the Referendum due to fears about opening the door to same sex marriages among the gay and lesbian community.
Congress should realise that a lot of work will have to be done to unseat NNP from power, as the sitting Prime Minister knows how to win and proved himself at the polls on four occasions in the past 22 years.
Dr. Mitchell has consistently been talking about legacy and would like a 5th term in office to be on the list of his personal successes over the years.
Like the NDC, the ruling party has its own challenges in the selection of candidates in some key constituencies.
NNP would have to decide soon on how to accommodate Sen. Peter David, the former General Secretary of Congress who is now an executive member of the ruling party.
Sen. David and his supporters are “eyeing” the Town of St. St. George that the former NDC member won in the 2003 and 2008 general elections.
But the incumbent, Health Minister Nicholas Steele is believed to be interested in holding onto his seat in another election.
If Steele gets the nod to stay in town then if David is to be accommodated the most likely casualty will be Alexandra Otway-Noel in St. George South.
The NNP might also be concerned at St. David’s in which Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph will be battling once again against calypsonian/former civil servant, Adrian “Persuader” Thomas to hold onto the seat.
The pro-NNP activist, Kennedy Budhlall has come out publicly and expressed fears that this Constituency might already be lost and would be hard for NNP to turn back the slide against it.
St. David is normally regarded as NDC territory as the party won the seat in the 1990, 1995, 2003 and 2008 general elections through deceased candidates Michael Andrew and Denis Lett.
The upcoming general election will see the NNP for the very first time facing the electorate after being forced to introduce so many harsh austerity measures in the country as a result of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
Growth to the small man is not measured by meeting the targets set by the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) but improvements in the lives of the common man on the ground.
The opposition forces have a number of issues to take to the electorate including the failure of NNP to deliver to the Youth population the many promises made especially the laptops/tablets offered to the students.
Serious questions are also being asked right now about the future of the NNP flagship programme – the Imanis – with some government ministers beginning to even raise doubts about its success.
How will the electorate view the NNP team that continues to march along with the ageing trio of PM Mitchell, Elvin Nimrod and Gregory Bowen?
The NNP score sheets vis-à-vis its 2013 election manifesto is a dismal failure including the promise of a new economy and the outcome of the 2017 poll could depend on how the opposition uses the many issues at stake.