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St. Vincent Modern History

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 reign.

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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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).

Contemporary History of St. VincentCorruption 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 fraud.

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 constitution.

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 the election.

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.

 
 

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