Wave of elections

2021 brings election season to many Caribbean islands.

A wave of elections is set to sweep the Caribbean region this year. In this extended article, we take you on a whistle-stop tour of the region, highlighting important dates and commenting briefly on the political status and outlook. If you’d like a deeper dive on any of this, you know what to do!

Haiti

Haiti has been largely unaffected by COVID-19 to date but has experienced growing political instability under President Jovenel Moïse’s administration with social unrest, high rates of inflation and growing levels of gang violence. Moïse is currently ruling by decree after the government’s failure to hold elections in October 2019 resulted in the expiration of much of the legislature’s terms on 13 January 2020 with no replacements elected.

Moïse’s stated intention is to launch a referendum to change the Constitution by mid-2021 and following that organise general elections – recent polls show broad public support for constitutional change.

A senior political consultant in Haiti reported, “We have no idea when elections are due, it doesn’t look like it will be this year. The opposition believes the President’s mandate ends on 7 February this year but the President believes it extends until February 2022. Haiti is complicated and our Constitution is vague. As an example, there are only 10 Senators in power at present, but the committee to organise elections needs 23 Senators – it’s a mess.”

“We have no idea when elections are due, it doesn’t look like it will be this year.”

Senior Political Consultant, Haiti

The UN are in-country, attempting to smooth the path to free and fair elections, but 2021 looks like another challenging for Haiti that still hasn’t recovered from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is a self-governing British Overseas Territory with a Governor appointed by the British Monarch. The political leader and head of government of the Cayman Islands is the Premier, a post currently held by Alden McLaughlin. General Elections will be held on Wednesday 26th May 2021 and the Legislative Assembly will be dissolved on 29 March 2021, with Nomination Day set for 7 April.

Currently governed by a coalition government, between the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), Cayman Democratic Party (“CDP”) and independent members, this is the second General Election to be held under the “one person one vote”, Single Member Electoral District, and the fourth since the introduction of a political party system in the Cayman Islands.

According to the Governor, the islands have a history of “fair, well run democratic elections with high levels of voter participation.” However, as the election campaign gets underway, independent MP Ezzard Miller, called for an end to corruption which he says dominates the island’s political landscape, and “allows the influence of a few powerful people to undermine the lives of Caymanians.”

Alden McLaughlin cannot run for Premier having reached the two-term limit, but will still be running for his Red Bay seat. Finance minister, Roy McTaggart, is his successor as leader of the party. It is not clear if the coalition will hold through the election and which of the independents will be campaigning on the PPM platform.

Curaçao

The head of state of Curaçao is the Governor, appointed by the Dutch Monarch, and the Prime Minister is the head of government, a post currently held by Eugene Rhuggenaath. The Prime Minister is indirectly elected by parliament. Curacao has scheduled parliamentary elections for 19 March 2021.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Curaçao has been severe. Deteriorating economic conditions will give rise to wider fiscal deficits. Dutch financial assistance has been critical but has proven contentious due to the conditions attached to loans. It is expected that the incumbent Party for the Restructured Antilles (“PAR”) and Partido MAN (“MAN”) will form a government with support from smaller parties competing for single seats.

Aruba

As another constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba has a similar political structure to Curaçao. General elections are due to be held in September 2021.

There are ongoing difficulties in Aruba with respect to reviving tourism, which plummeted in 2020, and a continued weak economic recovery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The island’s oil refinery is also closed, and is likely to remain so throughout 2021 and in to 2022.

Collectively, these issues will weigh on the current government’s re-election chances, as the coalition government, led by Evelyn Wever-Croes of the Movimiento Electoral di Pueblo, is expected to struggle to re-energise the economy. A senior politician in Aruba commented, “The Arubaanse Volkspartij party is likely to capitalise on the dire state of the economy and regain power in the September election.”

Saint Lucia

Following independence in 1979, Saint Lucia chose to remain within the British Commonwealth with the British Monarch as head of state, represented locally by the Governor-General, Sir Neville Cenac.

The prime minister is the leader of the majority party of the house, and the cabinet conducts affairs of state, with a 5 year term of office. Elections are due in June 2021, although the government has 90 days to call the election. St. Lucia follows a 2-party system, with the United Workers Party currently in power, and the Saint Lucia Labour Party.

A regional political analyst gave us their latest perspective on the elections, “I don’t think Prime Minister Chastanet will be surprised, there are 17 seats in the Parliament, and he controls 11 of them. Losing these would require a major swing. St. Lucia elections are fought along the lines of who is the party’s leadership, so it’s who they think has the strongest leaders.”

“I don’t think Prime Minister Chastanet will be surprised, there are 17 seats in the Parliament, and he controls 11 of them.”

Regional political analyst

Economically, the same source summarises, “St. Lucia, like everywhere else, has been suffering economically and socially. Citizens realise that the economy is not good, but not as bad as other Caribbean countries. Hotels in St. Lucia are still open, some are upgrading and others are focused on local tourism.”

Turks and Caicos Islands

As a British Overseas Territory the head of state of Turks & Caicos is the British Monarch, represented locally by a Governor, currently Nigel Dakin. The Premier of Turks & Caicos, Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, announced General Elections on 19th February 2021 to elect members of the House of Assembly.

At the last elections in December 2016, the People’s Democratic Movement (“PDM”) won six of the ten constituencies, and four of the five At-Large seats, making Robinson the country’s first female leader.

Elections are constitutionally due every 4 years, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic the original date of December 2020 was pushed back.

Turks & Caicos Islands has a two-party system, elections will be contested by the government and the main opposition Progressive National Party (“PNP”). Nomination Day is 29 January. Generally elections have been free and fair.

Although Robinson remains confident of a re-election, she will go to the polls with one of the highest “vote-getters” in her party absent – Hon. Josephine Connolly. A public rift in the party in 2017 saw the premier firing Connolly from the party. This led to Connolly declaring herself an independent member of Parliament, and eventually joining ranks with the opposition, the PNP.

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