THE writer H.G. Wells is best known for his science fiction novel “The War Of The Worlds” which imagined a Martian invasion of Earth and was most recently turned into a Hollywood movie starring Tom Cruise. But he was also a commentator on political and social matters in the early twentieth century. Mr Wells once described elections as “democracy’s ceremonial, feast and function” and we at the Observer agree. Elections are the great process by which adult men and women, each entitled to one vote no matter how rich or poor, decide the character of the country in which they want to live.
At the time of this newspaper going to press Prime Minister Timothy Harris was expected to call an election, our ninth since we achieved independence in 1983, and we remain hopeful that he will announce a day that is sooner rather than later. There is no doubt that we are living in uncertain times but that should not prevent us from voting for the members of our National Assembly to make decisions on all the issues that we care about, such as the health and security of the Federation, the state of the nation’s finances and our economy, our schools, our roads, our reputation in the region and the world, among others.
We will not be the first country required to navigate an election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some crooked governments have tried to delay elections, many countries have gone ahead with their elections because they understand how vital it is for their citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote, no matter the challenge. We believe that this government understand this too. But the government must remember to keep us safe and socially distanced at the polling stations with the same clarity and effectiveness that has marked the country’s current handling of the pandemic.
Perhaps some will not be supportive of the Prime Minister’s decision to call an election. They might argue it will be too dangerous to hold the election during a global pandemic. Or they might find some other excuse. Indeed, they may fear an election in the coming months when political supporters living and paying taxes abroad will not be able to fly in, as some customarily do at someone else’s expense, just to vote. They could be horrified that the pandemic ensures that only citizens who genuinely live in St Kitts and Nevis and who are directly impacted by the decisions undertaken by our politicians will be able to cast their vote this time round. But why should anyone fear such a thing? It may well turn out to be a unique election but our constitution drawn up after our independence mandates the holding of a General Election every five years. Democracy stops for no one.
But as well as affording us a fundamental right, elections also give us the opportunity to hold all political leaders to account. To look at their track records in government and in opposition. To ask questions of them. What are their answers to the challenges that our blessed Federation will face in the years to come? Do we believe our brightest days are behind us or ahead of us? Who can we rely on to navigate a healthy and prosperous path through an increasingly uncertain world? Who can we trust on to grow our economy? Who has the right character to represent us in CARICOM and on the world stage? Who will keep us and our families safe?
These are the questions our politicians will need to answer as we continue as a democracy and protect what our forefathers have for.