Analysis: Breaking Down The 2017 Montserrat By-Election Results Following The Victory of Parliamentarian-elect, Dr Samuel Joseph

This continued push towards favouring a party should serve as an indicator for candidates thinking of coming forward for the 2019 General elections.

Analysis: Breaking Down The 2017 Montserrat By-Election Results Following The Victory of Parliamentarian-elect, Dr Samuel Joseph

Marketing, News & Information Media - (MNI Alive Media) Editorial Chair, offers our congratulations to a former schoolmate and fellow Georgian, Parliamentarian-elect, Dr Sammy Joseph, on winning the January 30th, 2017, By-Election on Montserrat.

At the final vote tally, Dr Sammy won the election, contested on a Movement for Change and Prosperity ticket, with a total of 679 votes. His nearest rival Emile Duberry, who ran on a People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) ticket came in second with a total of 369 votes.

Whilst MNI Alive Media viewed the candidacy of Charlesworth “Sonni” Phillip as a fitting response to what Montserrat requires at this moment in time, Mr Phillip, who entered the contest at a late stage did not prevail. However, his candidacy is one that we still very much think has steam behind it, and is a wonderful platform to be developed further for the future of Montserrat, and the island's development delivery. 

Additionally, it must be stated here, that the process of electioneering and people engagement with the politics, and the issues to do with Montserrat should never be taken by anyone of political maturity as a personal contest, to see whose candidate won over the other. Such engagement is what is killing the forward movement of the island, as too much of the political engagement is personal. The ultimate aim all nationals and citizens hopefully are seeking, would be true development focused Parliamentarians for Montserrat. Thus, persons should seek to back their candidates based on that, and not as a churlish contest, but more so as a true love for Montserrat's development.

That being said,  MNI Alive Media's Editorial Chair wishes to provide a few brief analytical thoughts on what the election results depict for Montserrat.

Firstly, Dr Samuel Joseph won his seat on a Party platform. The results once again showed, as they did in the 2014 General Elections, that people on Montserrat wish to see structure in the governance of the island. Thus, they are voting party over independent candidates.

Examining the results, we note that of the voter breakdown, the nearest independent candidate rivalling both Dr Sammy and Emile Duberry was Jermaine Wade with 244 votes.

This continued push towards favouring a party should serve as an indicator for candidates thinking of coming forward for the 2019 General Elections.

Another point of observation is that voter turnout was very low in this by-election. There is a total of 3866 registered voters on Montserrat, and only 1611 turned out to vote.

What Does Low Voter Turnout Indicate?
There is a strong showing of voter apathy towards the electoral process on Montserrat, and what it delivers for the people. Speaking to many persons on the ground, both pre and post by-election, they did not see the reason for voting as to them “we vote and nothing changes, so why bother?”

There was also a feeling that the by-election was not a major deal for the island. Thus, as it was not a general election and some voters’ favoured candidates were not contesting, they did not see the need to come out and cast a ballot.

These reasons are understandable. However, there is a strong need for redress in many instances, as it is clear that more voter education and encouragement is required so that more citizens partake in the democratic process of the island. The right to vote also known as Universal Suffrage was fought for by key freedom fighters on Montserrat, and was granted in 1952 for all citizens – male and female. It is the right and the expectation of all legally registered voters to participate as widely as possible, to receive the representation they require for the country.
 
When informed during the day of the by-election of the low turnout, I entertained the thought that this will either favour Dr Sammy or Jermaine Wade, as it would depend on who has the better ground game to get out the vote.

What is very clear in this victory by Dr Sammy is that the MCAP party faithful came out in their powerful numbers to vote for their candidate. As they should have!

It shows that Dr Sammy and the MCAP machinery had a solid plan, and an organised structure to get out the vote in their favour. The resounding victory points to that.

Jermaine Wade did not get out the vote as much as we thought he would have. The reason we pushed Jermaine into the mix yesterday during the voting process was primarily because Wade was recently an MCAP member, and MNI Alive Media is aware that some die-hard MCAP voters stated very forcefully that they are voting Wade despite being for their party; as they felt a loyalty to Wade; him being with MCAP for so many years. So with that, we thought Wade would have had a closer challenge to Dr Sammy.

Emile Duberry being the closest rival to Dr Sammy’s victory illustrates even more that getting out of the vote was key, as also, the PDM faithful came out to vote. However, they did not come out in their great numbers as like in 2014.

This then takes me into another segment of this post-election analysis. Two issues come glaringly to the frontline.

Does this Dr Sammy/MCAP victory give an indication that MCAP is favourable heading into the 2019 General Elections?

On that question opinions will vary, but MNI Alive's view is that we think it does not. Reason being due to the low voter turnout mainly. It was mainly a highly MCAP faithful that elected Dr Sammy, as they came to give their full support, along with others. If the island had a powerful voter turnout with more coming forward to cast a ballot, would it have still been a resounding MCAP victory? Are voters inlove with MCAP once again?

A by-election by its very nature is not comparable to a general election, so therefore it leaves a question mark as to whether MCAP is still palatable to the masses in a General Election scenario. This victory gives them hope for sure. But to say it is signal that MCAP is back 100%, I think is a stretch. The dynamic and metrics of a general election are way more complicated to navigate than a by-election.

Now to the PDM party
This loss by PDM candidate Emile Duberry can be seen as a reflection of the mood against the PDM in some ways.

What do I mean by mood? Well, it is clear that PDM are not down and out. But why did their faithful not come out in great numbers as they did for them in 2014?

It can be viewed that they too were not energised enough by the candidate. It can be viewed also that they are angry that the promises the party stated have not been delivered two years in.

Or, it can be viewed that while they still love their party (after all Emile received 369 votes) they may have an issue with the leadership of the party.

Is Premier Romeo’s unpopularity a weight around the neck of the Peoples Democratic Movement? That is the question that I ask looking at the PDM party from this by-election result. The PDM party is not down and out as many had assumed it was. Emile was not supposed to be second. However, he still was! So are the PDM voters and also to a lesser extent, the not so fully PDM voters who still backed the party in 2014 away from MCAP - are they saying to the PDM party that; "we still are with you, but we do not like how the party is being led." 

Going into a 2019 General election, can Romeo really command authority to lead the PDM to electoral victory based on this by-election showing by the PDM candidate? That is a question for the party to seriously ponder.

Finally, Mr Jermaine Wade still has a political future. He was in the mix in this by-election with 244 votes. Wade is not out for the count. We do feel here at MNI Alive, that Wade can work on a few things, and lessen a few things also. His platform is one that has legs, and can be developed even further, as clearly some die-hard MCAP faithful and young people are still with him. Also, a strong youth contingent are still with him. Can he maintain them going into the 2019 general election? We think he can. Wade may however consider aligning himself with a grouping for 2019 to galvanize his platform even more powerfully.

Also, Charlesworth "Sonni" Phillip is another takeaway from this by-election that can be great for Montserrat. His platform was most reassuring and fresh. No drama or nonsense, just sticking to the issues that can deliver growth for Montserrat. MNI Alive Media still backs Sonni, and thinks he has a great political future. If he had entered the race earlier he perhaps would have had more steam. One will never know at this stage. But both Charelesworth and Jermaine Wade who ran as independents are prospects for 2019.

As Dr Samuel Joseph awaits to be sworn in as a Parliamentarian on Montserrat, MNI Alive Media wishes him the best and looks forward to seeing his delivery for, and on behalf of all the people of Montserrat. It was a victory he worked very hard to achieve, and the people rewarded him duly. Well done Dr Sammy and Godspeed be with you!



Jeevan A. Robinson is Editor-in-Chief at Marketing, News & Information Media. He can be reached at jeevan@mnialive.com