Four for Skerrit
Political scientist Peter Wickham says Skerrit will win another term
It's a forecast that is sure to have supporters of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) red with rage, or mired in a blue mood.
"I don't think he would have any difficulty winning again."
The Barbadian pollster and political scientist Peter Wickham is convinced that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) will defeat the UWP at the next election if Skerrit sticks to his word and runs again.
However, Wickham wonders why the Dominican leader should bother to go past this term at the helm.
"My question is, does he want to?" asked Wickham, an opponent of people remaining in power too long. He has also previously said Skerrit should quit, having won three straight general elections.
In his speech in St. Joseph on 2 February in which he framed UWP leader Lennox Linton as an enemy of the state, Skerrit declared that he had had a change of heart would now contest the next general election. His sole motivation, he said, was to carve Linton and the UWP as a dish fit for the devil.
It was a speech so violently scathing on Linton it left the impression that the opposition leader had committed apostasy. "I want you to listen to me very carefully," Skerrit told cheering supporters who would lend their ears.
He explained that he had already told those close to him that he had had enough and therefore he had "absolutely no intention" of contesting the next election as a candidate for prime minister. He did not say whether or not he planned to quit elective politics altogether, however, this was implied.
But things had changed, the DLP leader said, because the "traitors" in the opposition, led by Linton, had been spreading "salacious" untruths about him and the country and were dead set on destroying his homeland.
Therefore, Skerrit said he would scrap retirement plans and run again to bury Linton, for he certainly did not have a single word of praise for the opposition leader.
"I have now told myself my work in this country is not complete. Not only will we rebuild this country in four short years, but I will lead my forces into battle one more time to defeat Lennox Linton and the United Workers Party. I want to defeat them badly. I want to punish them for the wrong that they are doing to Dominica . . . .Is blows they want…is blows they will get," he said at the time.
"I guess if he's running again, he's running again," Wickham told The Sun.
"I don't really see a challenge [for him]. I really question the extent to which he would want to run again, having run as many times as he has and he has nothing left to prove." The DLP has already won four straight elections, the last three under Skerrit's leadership. However, Wickham does not see this as a problem because, he says, the opposition is weak.
"If you look at the fourth terms we have had in the Caribbean, it's [due to] woefully inadequate opponents," the Barbadian pollster explained.
He referred to St. Vincent where Ralph Gonsalves' Unity Labour Party has been in office since 2001 and won a fourth term last year, as well as in St. Kitts where the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party of Denzil Douglas won four terms before losing last year's election.
Wickham claimed the absence of an effective opposition had helped the incumbent parties' causes in both cases, as well as Keith Mitchell's New National Party which won three straight elections in Grenada from 1995, and four of the last five, sweeping the polls twice.
"It was inadequate opponents, so I don't see him having any trouble winning again," he said of Skerrit.
However, one political observer who has had close association with both major parties disagreed with Wickham to a point.
The observer, who spoke to The Sun on the usual condition of anonymity because of his position as a senior public servant, said more and more people are becoming fed up with the administration.
"There is growing electorate fatigue with Skerrit and his Labour Party, which has demonstrated a total lack of commitment to a development agenda that would transform Dominica and position it for economic revitalization," this observer contended.
He said there was no truth to Wickham's assertion that the opposition was weak, and while he did not rule out another Skerrit triumph, he said any such victory would be due to questionable practices by the administration.
"The DLP may only get another majority of seats if there is no comprehensive electoral reform that addresses an updated voters list, and campaign finance limits. I expect that it will resort to gerrymandering tactics to change the configuration of constituencies to their favour. The Opposition is not weak; the 2014 election underscored that. Its focus on a coalition approach is the only way forward to thwart a dictatorship of the DLP. It must therefore take all available steps to ensure that comprehensive electoral reform is realized."
Meantime, Wickham did not believe the latest sex scandal involving a juvenile would hurt Skerrit's or the DLP's chances because people from both major political parties have been implicated.
"Any fallout on his side is also balanced by a fallout on the other side. It really is a matter of very, very poor judgement on the part of [those implicated]. To the extent that it is balanced the fallout will be minimized," Wickham predicted.