A Social Democratic Party dominated politics
in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the 1960s and
won the first election at independence in 1979. Five
years later, a right-wing party took power and held it
for four terms. In 2001, the change of power was
renewed, after which the Social Democrats began a long
In the first election shortly after independence,
Saint Vincent's Workers' Party (SVLP) won a landslide
victory. SVLP leader Milton Cato became the country's
first prime minister. Cato had held the post of
government even before independence and is called the
father of independence.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing St. Vincent and The Grenadines. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Just a few days after the December 1979 election, the
young nation was put to the test. A group of young
people in the Rastafari sect (see Jamaica: Religion)
revolted on Union Island in the Grenadines. They took
control of the island's local airport and police
station. The Rastafari holidays demanded more influence
in the country's new government. A Saint Vincent police
force turned down the uprising.
A number of scandals and dissatisfaction with tax
policy led to Milton Cato and the SVLP being voted out
in the election in 1984. Instead, the New Democratic
Party (NDP), led by James Mitchell, won. The economic
upturn in the 1980s, with an annual growth of about 7
per cent on average, helped the NDP in the 1989
elections to win all elected seats in parliament. Many
poor farmers voted for the NDP after promising that they
would be awarded plots.
The NDP remained in power even after the 1994
elections, but the mandate decreased in favor of an
alliance between SVLP and another left-wing party. After
the elections, these parties merged and formed the
United Workers' Party (ULP).
Corruption among the country's leaders is revealed
The island was shaken properly at the end of 1995
when the country's Deputy Prime Minister Parnell R
Campbell resigned after being accused of irregularities
in connection with a personal loan deal. The scandal
widened the following year when it emerged that
Campbell's successors had received money from a
businessman who exposed the government's bank to a check
Ahead of the 1998 elections, the opposition was
victorious. The ULP also received 55 percent of the
vote, but the electoral system meant that the NDP
government party still got a mandate more than the ULP.
Protests from both the opposition and the public erupted
and two ministers were injured in violence.
Nevertheless, James Mitchell re-formed government.
The NDP government sought to reduce the economy's
dependence on the banana industry and tourism. Major
efforts were made to build up an so-called offshore
sector with foreign financial companies (see Financial
overview). At the same time, the government was trying
to put a stop to the country's extensive marijuana
cultivation. In 1999, troops from the regional security
force (see Foreign Policy and Defense) conducted a
large-scale raid on marijuana growers.
When the government in April 2000 passed legislation
that gave the country's parliamentarians increased
salaries and more benefits, nationwide protests erupted.
The opposition and public sector unions demonstrated
against the decision and the government was called on to
resign. After mediation by the Caribbean cooperation
organization Caricom, the government promised to hold
new elections within a year and to review the
Concerns about choices
In 2000, Finance Minister Arnhim Eustace took over
after James Mitchell, both as party leader for the NDP
and as prime minister.
The March 2001 parliamentary elections were preceded
by unrest since a ULP member shot an NDP supporter. For
the first time ever, international election observers
came to the country. However, the election took place
under calm conditions and resulted in a change of
government when ULP won by far. ULP leader Ralph
Gonsalves became new prime minister.
Ahead of the upcoming elections in 2005, the NDP
criticized the government for its close contacts with
the left-wing regimes in Venezuela and Cuba. Ralph
Gonsalves defended a new energy deal with Venezuela (see
Foreign Trade) in that it provided relatively cheap
gasoline and kerosene, which vincents often use for
cooking. The ULP won by a good margin. The NDP claimed
that electoral fraud had occurred, but plans to appeal
the result came when foreign election observers approved
Two women accused Prime Minister Gonsalves of sexual
abuse in 2008. The opposition boycotted parliamentary
meetings because of the accusations, which made
Gonsalves threaten to announce election elections for
the vacant seats. However, both charges were dropped.
Voter no to Republic
In 2009, a heated debate raged over a proposal for a
new constitution that the government presented after six
years of preparation. The proposal includes a transition
to the Republic. The NDP opposed the proposal on the
grounds that it did not do enough to strengthen
democracy. In November, a referendum was held on the
draft constitution, which led to a stinging defeat for
the government: 56 percent of voters voted no. For a
yes, two thirds would have required support.
The result of the referendum and the continued
problematic economic situation gave the opposition good
courage before the December 2010 election. The NDP
accused Ralph Gonsalves of being authoritarian and of
his deepening contacts with Cuba and Venezuela. The NDP
also progressed compared to previous elections, but was
ultimately given a mandate less than the ULP, which
could thus remain for a third term.