Grenadians are entering the most crucial weekend since the start of the new year with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell expected to give the date for the much-anticipated general election on Sunday at the Beausejour playing field in his St. George North-west constituency.
The ruling New National Party (NNP) will also be using the occasion to publicly launch its last three candidates to contest seats in the elections – Prime Minster Mitchell himself, as well as his long-standing political colleague Gregory Bowen (St. George South-east) and the controversial Peter David (Town of St. George).
The date of the poll will set the stage for the start of the official period of campaigning by the New National Party (NNP) and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to land the seat at power in the Botanical Gardens for the next five years.
NDC will be taking its political platform to the Carenage on Sunday as a show of support for barrister-at-law, Claudette Joseph who is its candidate for the Town of St. George against Peter David, a two-time winner of the seat.
Congress officials are predicting an election date sometime between February 27 and March 9.
The campaigning so far by both NNP and NDC have so far been lacking in debates on major issues confronting the country.
Dr. Mitchell and NNP have been engaged in a platform of “dancing” and making pleas to the electorate to give them another five years in office “to continue with the progress”.
The NDC has been attacking the NNP’s performance especially its track record of austerity measures including over 28 tax measures as part of a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Political observers expect the NDC to push for a debate among the two major Political Leaders on the issues that should be at centre stage in the campaigning.
One political analyst told this newspaper that he believes Prime Minister Mitchell will be very reluctant to go “toe-to-toe” with Congress leader, Nazim Burke in an intellectual battle.
“Honestly, I think (Burke) will destroy (Dr. Mitchell) in a debate on the issues. (Dr. Mitchell) is extremely weak intellectually. (Dr. Mitchell) is also very weak on simple things. Look at his response to the debt to GDP ratio issue. I have been questioning his (Dr. Mitchell) academic credentials for years now”, he said.
This is a clear reference to Prime Minister Mitchell’s refusal to give a clear figure on the current national debt and resorting to giving a drop in the debt to GDP ratio.
The Prime Minister also incensed a section of the public when he told a youth meeting that the size of the debt should not matter to anyone but the country’s ability to service the debt.
Former Prime Minister and ex-NDC Political Leader, Tillman Thomas got into the debate and accused PM Mitchell of engaging in “voodoo” economics by refusing to give the exact figure of the national debt.
As both the NDC and NNP get ready for campaign 2018, a lawsuit has been filed against both of them by economist Lincoln St. Louis, a former President of the now defunct Grenada United Labour Party (GULP), who accused them of “fiscal mismanagement” of the island’s economy in the past 20 years given the massive national debt.
Local talk-show host Kem Jones in a Facebook Live broadcast stated that Prime Minister Mitchell is visionless and lacks the ideas and energy to take on the challenges of Grenada for another full term.
Citing the lack of grown in agriculture, wasted opportunities in manufacturing and weakening trade opportunities, Jones suggested that it is now time to move forward with new leadership and away from 71-year old Dr. Mitchell, who has served over 18 years as Prime Minister of the country.
Jones also alluded to Dr. Mitchell seemingly preference for Russian investors in Grenada’s oil and gas and in the nutmeg trade.
The NNP won all 15 elected seats in Parliament at the last general elections in February 2013.
Dr. Mitchell has signalled his intention to repeat with the boast that NNP will once again play “greedy” and that NDC will have to fight hard to win even one seat on polling day.