Sweeping Change in St. Lucia / by Alan Strathman

The election results are in and St. Lucians overwhelmingly decided to make a change.  Remember, this is a parliamentary system.  Each Lucian casts only one vote, for their local representative. There are 17 constituencies so the party that wins more seats is the party in power and the head of that party becomes Prime Minister.

Until Tuesday the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) was in power with an 11-6 majority. Starting Tuesday, the United Workers' Party took over with their own 11-6 majority. The new Prime Minister is Allen Chastanet.   He is a son in one of the richest families on the island.  His family owns all the grocery stores (and I mean ALL the grocery stores). He is a white St. Lucian, and several people have stopped me on the street to ask if I'm his brother. Evidently we look something alike.

A few points:

1. Terms are 5 years and are not staggered like they are in the U.S. So every five years every seat is up for grabs.

2. There is no legitimate polling here so there really is no way to know who is going to win.  As a result, there is no way to prepare yourself for a result, especially for a huge shift like this one. Where's 538 when you need it?

3.  They still use actual ballot boxes.  So when they report results on the news, they say how many boxes have been counted and how many are remaining.

4.  As I mentioned in an earlier post the literacy and education rates are very low in St. Lucia. This swing was clearly the result of young people voting, and it is clear from watching the process that a very large percentage of people voted without even a vague awareness of the issues in play.

5. Having said that, I should also say that young people carried the day and the youth unemployment rate is almost 50%. So it may be more accurate to say that for many people it was a one-issue election.

6. Thank goodness that the election was called for only 19 days ahead.  Mercifully short. And tolerable.  What a good way to do it. (I'm looking at you U.S. politicians.)