By NAN Contributor
News Americas, KINGSTON, St. Vincent, Fri. Dec. 4, 2015: The countdown has begun to general elections in the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Voters there will go to the polls next Wednesday, December 9th in this island of just over 106, 000 people.
The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is hoping for another term. But he faces a challenge from the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Arnhim Eustace, a former prime minister, who lost the last General Election in 2010 by an 8 to 7 margin in the 15-seat parliament.
However, a recent opinion poll from Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) claim that 61 percent of 800 people surveyed across the 13 mainland constituencies on the islands have expressed a preference for Prime Minister Gonsalves, while just over 37 percent prefer Opposition Leader Eustace.
The issues of greatest concern the study found are jobs/employment, the cost of living and the economy.
The GDP in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 1.174 billion; growth has been a negative two percent according to latest data; the unemployment rate is over 18 percent and the poverty rate is over 30 percent.
Others concerns reportedly include crime and issues such as health, education, roads and housing.
However, notwithstanding the reported comparative popularity of Gonsalves ahead of the last elections on December 13, 2010, his Unity Labour Party (ULP) achieved only a narrow eight to seven seat victory in the 15-seat parliament.
The House of Assembly has 21 members, 15 members elected for a five-year term in single seat constituencies and 6 appointed senators. There are about 101 thousand registered voters on the island.
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) will be observing the election.
The Mission is led by Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Staff to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and is made up of 12 observers from 11 OAS member countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Ecuador, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.
This will be the fifth time an OAS team has observed elections in St Vincent and the Grenadines.