When to say when

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The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines have spoken. They’ve reelected Dr Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) to a fifth consecutive term. We here at NEWSCO wish to salute the good doctor for prevailing at the polls, with an increased majority, never mind that he lost the popular vote. He now has nine seats in the 15-seat parliament.

We had no horse in this race, and hoped only for a free and fair election, and one free from fear. From all the early reports, the elections were above reproach, for the most part. In that regard, we also salute the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. They are certainly showing our dear Uncle Sam, the putative standard-bearer of democracy and electioneering, how this election thingy ought to be done. And the Vincentians are not alone. In St Kitts Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and Anguilla, the elections have been relatively incident-free. Certainly there has been nothing like the rancour and wrangling, and the false and dangerous statements being propagated by the apparent loser and his rabid supporters in the US election. Or the confusion that reigned after the March election in Guyana.

Interestingly, the rich irony in all of this is that, whereas the apparent loser in the US elections, Donald Trump, by way of Mike Pompeo, scolded David Granger, the loser in the Guyana elections, bullying him to accept the results and demit office, Granger can now write to Trump, exhorting him to accept the results of the polls and gracefully leave the White House. Fat chance. Based on his manic ranting and raving, as well as his lawsuits and apparent unwillingness to accept the manifest will of the American people, it is a reasonable guess that he will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming from the White House. Next to people of colour and Mexicans, Donald Trump hates losers, and as of this moment, he is the world’s biggest loser. It will take a while yet for The Donald to reconcile himself to that harsh truth.

Then there is the question of polling fraud. The whole world is chortling at claims of widespread fraud in the . . . (gasp) almighty, holier-than-thou United States. Can it be true? That the country famous for condescendingly cautioning against election fraud in the so-called s**thole countries, now needs election monitors and observers to guard against election fraud? Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Which brings us back to Dr Gonsalves’ election victory for a fifth time. The good doctor has promised his people that this will be his last go-around. He will be riding off into the sunset, presumably at the end of this term. Good for him. No point in wearing out his welcome, clinging to power even as “The grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows become darkened.” [Ecclesiastes] Leaders need to know when to say when. And for those that subscribe to the thought that they have some sort of “divine right,” there ought to be term limits to disabuse them of that  stultifying notion.

We here in Antigua and Barbuda suffered greatly under nearly three decades of Antigua Labour Party rule. It was too long, and we are still reaping the bitter fruit of a party that had gone way past its shelf-life. (see the demise of a once-thriving agriculture sector under Sir Robert Hall, and the misuse of the Social Security Scheme).

In Africa, sad to say, a continent where leaders seem loathe to give up power, we have had some fossilised leaders. For example, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has been in power for nearly 40 years. Cameroon’s Paul Biya has been in power for all of 36 years. He is 85 years old. Robert Mugabe was 95 years old when he died last year. He’d served as leader of Zimbabwe for 40 years before he was forced to retire in 2017. Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan also ruled for 40 years before he was thrown out last year. Talk about a closed closet! No sunlight, no fresh air! Just death and decay!

On a visit to Africa in 2015, former President Barack Obama called for some of the long-standing leaders of Africa to step down. Said he to the African Union: “Nobody should be president for life. Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It will be good for yours too.” He is absolutely correct. Change is good, especially when it comes with an infusion of the enthusiasm and the thinking of the young.

Here in our fair State, we have fossilised constituency representatives, members of parliament who have long outlived their usefulness. Would that the long-suffering constituents could wake up from their somnolence and effect meaningful change. Send these do-nothing representatives into retirement. A vote for them is a wasted vote, because they are bereft of new ideas and are merely running out the clock.

To his credit, Dr Gonsalves has said that he will not be standing for re-election after this one. May others follow his lead.

  We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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