Political analyst says Massiah’s constituency move is ‘wise’ – but party’s election success is ‘mission impossible’

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By Carlena Knight

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Political analyst Peter Wickham says Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Joanne Massiah’s move to run for a different constituency than the one she previously held is a wise choice.

Wickham was speaking a day after the opposition party unveiled its full slate of candidates at the JSC Sports Complex on Tuesday evening.

It was there that Massiah revealed she would not be running for the All Saints East and St Luke constituency, the seat that propelled her to Parliament under the former United Progressive Party administration, but instead for St Phillip’s South.

“Even in the best of times, she was unable to impact on the outcome in All Saints East and St Luke. I think it is wise for her to move to St Phillip’s South.

“St Phillip’s South has a relatively more even pace between the two political parties and my sense is that if she doesn’t win St Phillip’s South, she can cause some damage there and I think that will cause the parties to sit up and take a look at her in a slightly more serious way,” Wickham said.

The latter seat is held by Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) incumbent Lennox Weston while Sherfield Bowen is the UPP’s candidate for the area.

The All Saints East and St Luke seat is currently held by Leader of the Opposition, the UPP’s Jamale Pringle, who will be fighting to retain it against the ABLP’s Colin James.

Wickham also spoke to the DNA’s chances at the upcoming elections.

 He believes that it is an “impossible task” for them to make a significant impact.

“It’s more like mission impossible… in the last election, they didn’t get two percent of the total popular vote. This time, she would need to get somewhere in the vicinity of 20 percent in order to be able to threaten any particular seat and that’s not likely based on how I am seeing the lay of the land now,” he continued.

“The candidate choice, all of them are clean but the challenge with that is of course, with a clean candidate the person is not particularly well known.

“If elections are close, and we believe that they will be, it means that her team needs to hit the ground running and needs to demonstrate a level of familiarity and get to know persons on an individual level within the constituency in a blistering pace, because it is a very short space of time if they are going to be able to compete effectively because what they really have now is that people don’t really know them as candidates, people don’t know them as politicians, as representatives, and they don’t have the coat tail of a popular leader in a party to be able to latch on to,” Wickham explained.

He added that he would be surprised if Massiah won her seat, however, he gave the leader and candidates kudos for their ‘never say die’ approach and the stances they have taken to highlight specific issues like the country’s water saga.

While Wickham was not so enthusiastic about the DNA’s chances, another political commentator Arvel Grant was slightly more optimistic.

Grant admitted that the task at hand for the party to demonstrate its ability to the public and win seats will be tough for the DNA as they are still a relatively new party.

“It is going to be a very heavy lift for the DNA to take a seat from the Labour Party and to take that seat that the UPP has over there but this is why they are in it. To try their hand at it, to see whether they can come up with innovative campaign strategies and techniques, to see how well they can use social media to attract critical young voters and to see whether or not they have enough of an experience in the team to encourage some older voters to vote for them.

“I believe it is going to take something for them to get to that point where they will instinctively suggest to people that they win elections going forward, but they know that building a brand requires a lot of heavy-lifting.

“It is up to the DNA and its team to demonstrate their ability to increase their support and win seats,” Grant said.

He added that he would have liked to see greater female representation than the DNA’s four women candidates.

Tecla Thomas will run for the All Saints East and St Luke seat, while DNA Chairperson, Malaka Parker, will vie for the St John’s Rural West constituency. Chaneil Imhoff is the St Peter candidate.

The other candidates include Gameal Joyce – St Paul, Roland Timothy – St John’s City South, Kisean Joseph – St Mary’s North, Andrew Antonio – St Mary’s South, former UPP candidate Trevor Young –St John’s Rural East, Leon Smith – St John’s City East, Anthony Stuart – All Saints West, Kelton Dalso – St George, Gatesworth James – St John’s City West, Louis Rivera – St John’s Rural North, Tshawn Lewis – St Phillip North, and Avoy Knight – St John’s Rural South.

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