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Grenada - Politics

Politics in Grenada traditionally has been more concerned with personalities and class interests than with ideology. Political parties, even those that grow out of labor union movements, are usually dominated by charismatic leaders who can motivate their followers through strong emotional (or, in the case of Gairy, even mystical) appeal. The aspect of class interest has tended to devolve into lower versus middle-class aspirations, there being no political party or parties commonly identified with the interests of the upper class.

In this respect, as in many others, the PRG represented an aberration in Grenadian history. The "vanguard" of the revolution the NJM was a party whose membership was drawn from the urban middle class (mainly young professionals who saw their opportunities limited under the corrupt Gairy government). When the PRG assumed power in March 1979, it presented the novel impression of a middle-class junta that sought, at least rhetorically, to reach out to the poor (the workers and peasantry). This initial promise never bore fruit, however, as the PRG was unable to make lasting economic gains and eventually fell victim to ideological infighting between Leninists and pragmatists, an internal conflict that paved the way for external intervention.

The political parties in Grenada are the governing left-of-center National Democratic Congress (NDC), which incorporated former members and associates of the New Jewel Movement (NJM); the moderate New National Party (NNP), which traditionally represented the interests of the urban middle class, drawing the majority of its support from St. George's; the People's Labor Movement (PLM), which is a combination of members of the original NDC and the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement (MBPM); and the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP). The history of GULP is the history of its leader, Eric Gairy. Gairy began his political life as a labor leader, establishing the Grenada Mental and Manual Workers Union (GMMWU) in 1950. The National Party (TNP) and MBPM no longer exist. The Good Old Democracy Party (GOD) has only one adherent but contested all elections.

National political consciousness developed through the labor movement, with the formation of the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union. In the new environment, a union organiser, Eric Matthew Gairy, formed the first political party, the pro-union, pro-independence Grenada United Labour Party (GULP). In 1951, GULP won the elections and Gairy became leader of the assembly.

It is ironic that the achievement in 1950 of universal adult suffrage, long a goal of Marryshow's, led directly to his displacement in Grenadian political life by a new figure, Eric Matthew Gairy. Whereas Marryshow had been a man of the middle class, Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) appealed to the lower class, the peasantry. Suddenly empowered by the vote, Gairy's supporters swept him to the leadership of the Legislative Council in 1951; he dominated the island's politics for almost three decades.

Eric Matthew Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Pary, GULP, had won five general elections four before independence held in 1954, 1961, 1967 and 1972. Quite a flamboyant and popular figure, he led the country into independence on February 7, 1974 and led the GULP into the first post-independence election in 1976. After claiming victory in the 1976 poll, the GULP and its hard-nosed leader resorted to strong-arm tactics against the NJM, its notorious Mongoose Gang terrorizing NJM leaders and supporters in ways and means unheard of in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The most successful electoral challenge to Gairy between 1951 and 1979 was posed by Herbert Blaize's Grenada National Party (GNP) in 1962, mainly on the issue of union with Trinidad and Tobago (the "unitary state" proposal). Again reflecting the Grenadian penchant for looking outward for support and viability, the GNP campaigned on a platform urging acceptance of the Trinidadian offer of union. Although Blaize's party won the election, it subsequently lost a large measure of prestige and credibility when Trinidad failed to follow through on the proposal. The Grenada National Party (GNP), led by Herbert Blaize held power between 195761 and 196267.

Independence was achieved in 1974; Grenada became a constitutional monarchy, with Gairy as Prime Minister. Strikes during the independence preparations, which almost prevented the transition, were suppressed by, it was claimed, Mongoose Gangs operating in the manner of Haitis Tonton- Macoutes.

Rupert Bishop, Maurices father, was a strong vocal opponent of the Gairy regime and he died after being attacked and beaten by the GULPs Mongoose squad. The dictatorship received much support in terror tactics from the Pinochet regime of Chile, one of its infamous naval ships, the Esmeralda described by the NJM as a floating terror-training vessel actually visiting the island during the GULPs last term.

However, Gairys open, undisguised dictatorial instincts and political methods soon planted the roots of the revolution, eventually popularly termed The Revo by Grenadians. The Revolution took place early Tuesday morning on March 13, 1979, while the eccentric Gairy was overseas. He was never allowed to return while it lasted and his many properties were seized by the revolutionary state. Gairy eventually died abroad years later.

Gairy was deposed in a coup by opposition leader Maurice Bishop, who took the New Jewel Movement (NJM) into power as the Peoples Revolutionary Government. The new government created state farms and industries, and forged links with the socialist world. With Cubas assistance, it began construction of the modern international airport at Point Salines.

Looking to Cuba and other Marxist-Leninist countries as its models, the NJM attempted to implement the first Marxist revolutionary state in the English-speaking Caribbean. The initial promises of this "revo" as the revolution was dubbed focused on the welfare of the people, for Bishop pledged to provide jobs, food, housing, and education. Free elections were also promised.

The People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) established by the 1979 coup failed to live up to the expectations of the Grenadian people, however. Although representative government was promised, the constitution was suspended. In its place, the PRG brought forth a series of "people's laws," the most effective of which were those that curtailed individual freedoms and facilitated the detention of dissidents.

In the economic sphere, the PRG made only slow and halting progress toward socialism. Constrained by the need to attract high levels of foreign aid and frustrated by the intractable nature of the island's economic problems, the ideological fervor of some members of the NJM gave way to increased repression and intensified conflict within the NJM Central Committee. This internal struggle, essentially a contest between the more pragmatic Bishop and his doctrinaire deputy prime minister Bernard Coard, led directly to the downfall of the PRG and the murder of Bishop and many others on October 19, 1983.

After the a military coup in which Bishop, two other ministers, two union leaders and 13 bystanders were killed, Bishops deputy, Bernard Coard, took control and set up a Revolutionary Military Council. Bishop's death exposed the truth that the hard-liners among the NJM had failed to recognize, namely, that if the PRG had any claim to legitimacy at all, it was through the charismatic authority of Bishop, who had remained generally popular in Grenada throughout the PRG period.

Bishop's murder set the stage for the October 25, 1983, military intervention by United States and Caribbean forces. At the request of OECS, the USA then invaded Grenada, supported by a token force of 300 police from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. After that date, Grenada turned to the United States as its principal ally and benefactor. Although the harsh repression of the PRG was a thing of the past, Grenadians continued to face a number of thorny political and economic problems as they looked toward the future. The Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, took control of an interim administration, (almost fully) reinstated the 1974 constitution and organised elections for a new government.

The NNP won its first election in 1984 the first after the demise of the Revolution with 14 of the 15 seats, winning 58.61 percent from an 86 percent voter turnout. The New National Party (NNP), a four-party merger led by Herbert Blaize and supported by the neighboring islands, easily defeated Gairys GULP at the December 1984 general election, and Blaize became Prime Minister.

The NNP continued in power until 1989 but with a reduced majority. Five NNP parliamentary members, including two cabinet ministers, left the party in 1986-87 and formed the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which became the official opposition. The NNP lost six years later on March 13, 1990 to an alliance between the National Democratic Congress, NDC, and The National Party, TNP the alliance winning 9 of the 15 seats with a 52 percent majority from a 68 percent total voter turnout.

In August 1989, Prime Minister Blaize broke with the NNP to form another new party, The National Party (TNP), from the ranks of the NNP. This split in the NNP resulted in the formation of a minority government until constitutionally scheduled elections in March 1990. Prime Minister Blaize died in December 1989 and was succeeded as Prime Minister by Ben Jones until the elections.

The NDC emerged from the 1990 elections as the strongest party, winning seven of the 15 available seats. Nicholas Brathwaite added two TNP members and one member of the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) to create a 10-seat majority coalition. The Governor General appointed him to be Prime Minister.

In parliamentary elections on June 20, 1995, contested by seven parties, the NNP won eight seats and formed a government headed by Keith Mitchell. The NNP gained eight seats, the NDC, now led by George Brizan, five and GULP, two. The NNP, now led by Dr Keith Mitchell, who became Prime Minister, continued to hold power for the next 13 years, with varying levels of representation in parliament. The NNP returned to office after the electoral contest in 1995, winning 8 of the 15 seats in a low poll with 32.34 percent of the votes from a 61.71 percent national turnout.

Two no-confidence motions following the elections were unsuccessful. However, in May 1997, five opposition parties, including the NDC, GULP and the Democratic Labour Party formed an alliance to provide a common front against the NNP, leaving the government with a majority of one.

The NNP won again with a stunning victory four years later in 1999, winning all 15 seats with a 62.47 percent majority of the votes cast from a 56.54 percent national turnout. The NNP took 8 of 15 seats in the November 2003 elections, snatching 47.77 percent of the votes from a 57.71 percent national turnout. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by Tillman Thomas established itself as the official opposition.

In the general election in January 1999 called early after a defection left the New National Party (NNP) government without a parliamentary majority the NNP won a landslide victory, receiving 62 per cent of the votes and Dr Keith Mitchell continued as Prime Minister. It was not only the first time a party had taken all 15 seats, but also the first time for any party to have won two successive elections.

In another early election in November 2003 Mitchell and NNP were returned for a third term. NNP won eight seats, with 48 per cent of the votes, and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) seven, with 46 per cent, following a recount in two constituencies where the margin was very small.

In February 2007, the Privy Council in London handed down its verdict on the appeal of the group that was convicted of murdering Prime Minister Bishop and members of his cabinet in 1983. The "Group of 14" were originally condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison. The three triggermen, sentenced to 30 years in prison as they were following orders, were released in December 2006 after serving two-thirds of their original sentence, as per local law. The remainder of the group argued that the original trial was unjust and appealed to the Privy Council to overturn the verdict and sentence.

The Privy Council decision, however, only vacated the sentence, on the grounds that the original death sentence was inappropriate. It upheld the convictions of multiple homicides, stripping the group of its political prisoner status. On resentencing, the Grenada Supreme Court overturned the life sentences. Three of the 13 remaining after the resentencing were released from prison in 2007, with the final group of 10 released in the summer of 2009.

In the July 2008 election, Mitchell failed in a bid to secure an unprecedented fourth consecutive term. While he won his own seat by a huge margin, only three other NNP candidates were voted in in a very close election. In a relatively peaceful election, monitored by a strong contingent from the Organization of American States, where the main issues were concerned with management of the economy, NDC took 11 of the 15 House of Representatives seats and 51 per cent of votes; NNP won four seats and 48 per cent of votes. Tillman Thomas NDC leader since 2000 became Prime Minister. Mitchell was the leader of the official opposition.

In the general election in February 2013 Keith Mitchell and the NNP won a landslide victory, taking all 15 seats in the House of Representatives, defeating the National Democratic Congress, which had governed for more than four years. This was a result which Mitchell had previously achieved in January 1999. Turnout was 88 per cent; the NNP secured 59 per cent of votes and the NDC 41 per cent. The election was observed by a Commonwealth election assessment team led by Irfan Abdool Rahman, the electoral commissioner of Mauritius. The Organization of American States led an election-observer mission, which deemed the elections generally free and fair.

2018 Election

The expected date of next elections was in February 2018. The last national poll was held on February 19, 2013 and as the end of the NNPs current term approached, the political parties started hitting the campaign trail.

The announcement on January 28 of the March 13 election date gave Grenadian voters and political parties only 45 days to prepare. Grenadians were getting ready to head to the polls in just six weeks. Voters had been registering to cast their ballots and a host of political parties have nominated candidates for the 2018 poll after the Government set the next General Elections for March 13, 2018, to coincide with the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution.

The much-anticipated announcement was finally made on Sunday, January 28 by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell while addressing a huge rally of his ruling New National Party (NNP) in the capital city, St. Georges. The election date had remained a national mystery while the NNP and its main rival, the National Democratic Congress, NDC, had been campaigning feverishly since the closing months of 2017, largely leaving Grenadians in political suspense as the governments current five-year term inched towards its constitutional end.

In August 2017 the leader of the National Democratic Congress in Grenada has accused the government of squandering the countrys resources in an attempt to sway the general election in its favor. Nazim Burke points to the recent Supplementary Appropriation Bill as evidence of that. This presentation of two capital budgets in the same year is nothing but a cheap and vulgar ploy by the New National Party to embark upon a massive spending spree in the lead up to the upcoming elections using the taxpayers own money to buy their votes, said NDC leader Nazim Burke.

In Grenada, where there has been much speculation that Prime Minister Mitchell will call an early poll, the deputy leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP) Elvin Nimrod, announced his resignation from politics.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who had led his ruling New National Party (NNP) to a clean sweep of all the seats in the Parliament on two occasions, predicted a similar result in the upcoming general election. Addressing supporters at the presentation of the party's candidate for one of the four constituencies in the parish of St Andrew on 01 November 2017, Mitchell predicted that the party will win all 15 seats in the election that political observers said could be held later in 2017 [it wasn't], even though it is constitutionally due in 2018. He said the party has no intention of losing any of the 15 seats it won in the 2013 poll to the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), saying they will have to work to earn it.

We go play very greedy, he added.

It had been widely speculated that the poll might have been called close to Grenadas independence date, February 7. But Prime Minister Mitchell successfully kept citizens and voters guessing across Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, the three islands that comprise the Windward Islands nation state. Dr Mitchell, whose NNP has won all but two of the eight national elections since the Grenada Revolution died in October 1983, announced that he had asked the Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade, to dissolve parliament on February 20.

Mitchell had thus decided to completely exhaust his governments current five-year term, going down to the proverbial electoral wire by having the national parliament dissolved on the very last day allowed for under the Grenada constitution.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) deployed an electoral observer mission to monitor General Elections in Grenada to be held on Tuesday 13 March 2018. In a statement CARICOM said the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission (CEOM) was organised by the CARICOM Secretariat through its Directorate of Foreign and Community Relations, following an invitation from Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. The Mission was invited to provide an impartial assessment of the conduct of the elections. Approximately 45 candidates from the two major parties, seven minor parties as well as two independent entrants are set to contest the election to represent the six-parish country. Incumbent Mitchell leads the New National Party (NNP) against main opposition leader Nazim Burke's National Democratic Congress (NDC), both with 15 candidates each to compete for the parliament positions. NNP had made a clean sweep of the seats in the February 2013 general election, in which 88 percent of the 62,148 registered voters from among the Eastern Caribbean island's roughly 107,000 people participated. The other candidates who are contesting the election represented the Grenada Empowerment Movement (GEM), The Progressive Party (TPP), The Grenada Reconnaissance party (TGR), The Liberal Party (TLP), the Grenada Progressive Movement (GPM), the Grenada United Patriotic Movement (GUMP) and the Liberal Party (TLP) parties.

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