Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is thinking of calling an early poll – long before 2018 – in order to get an endorsement from Grenadians to his package of sweeping austerity measures, which is a main component of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
A source who spoke to THE NEW TODAY newspaper on conditions that he was not identified said that Dr. Mitchell, the Political Leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP) is quietly streamlining the party and putting the structures in place for elections as early as 2016.
He said the Prime Minister believes that an early poll will give the NNP a decisive advantage out of the belief that the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) “is far from ready” and would be caught “with their pants down”.
According to the source, there will be no major surprises in the list of candidates to be selected by the ruling party for the upcoming poll.
He said that the only major casualty could be the Member of Parliament for St. George North-east, Tobias Clement who might be discarded in order to create a place for former Congress General Secretary, Peter David who is now a full-fledged member of NNP.
David along with several other persons were expelled from NDC in 2012 at the height of bitter infighting as a rival group battled with then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas for control of both the party and then government.
The source said that David will not be considered for the Town of St. George seat that he won in both the 2003 and 2008 general elections and the NNP will stick with Nickolas Steele, the current Minister of Health.
He spoke of PM Mitchell not prepared to gamble with leaving out Steele and the other Upper Class candidate, Alexandria Otway-Noel (MP for South St. George) from the line-up because of the large amount of funds they can bring to an election campaign.
“He (Dr. Mitchell) will keep Steele and Alexandra as candidates because he doesn’t want to upset the Lance Aux Epines crowd and the money flow that can come from these people. So Steele and Alex will be running again”, he said.
If David gets the nod in St. George North-east, he would be coming up against Congress leader, Nazim Burke, the former Minister of Finance in the 2008-13 Congress government.
The two have been political comrades for years, dating back to the 1970’s as secondary school students with the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) of late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop.
The two only parted company in 2012 when Burke took the side of then PM Thomas in the NDC bruising internal feuding while David was considered as the leader of the Rebel Faction.
Another NNP party insider told this newspaper that one possible change in the next NNP lime-up for an upcoming poll will be MP for the rural St. Patrick East constituency, Clifton Paul who is to be discarded in favour of a female candidate.
He said the favourite is a female head mistress in a rural school who is the sister of a leading calypsonian that is considered a top NNP political activist in the St. Patrick area.
THE NEW TODAY understands the NDC will most likely field a female social worker as its own candidate for the St. Patrick East seat that was once held by former Prime Minister Thomas.
The source pointed out that PM Mitchell, who has often indicated that he intends to retire soon from frontline politics, will definitely lead the NNP into the next general elections.
He said the Prime Minister does not believe that any of the “other pretenders to the throne” is ready to lead the party at a national election and he wants to do so for one more time before handing over mid-way in the next term in office.
The source singled out David, the disgraced NDC member, as the person most likely to be given the green light by PM Mitchell to succeed him at the helm of the party.
He said the other two top leaders in the party – Deputy Prime Minister Elvin Nimrod is older than Dr. Mitchell while Party Chairman, Gregory Bowen has some health issues.
NNP currently enjoys a 15-0 majority in the Lower House of Parliament after capturing all seats in the February 2013 general elections – the second time in recent years with the first taking place in 1999.