Opposition MPs in St Lucia vote for new leader
Four of the six opposition members of parliament in Saint Lucia voted on Monday to remove Stephenson King as official leaders of the parliamentary opposition and replace him with Dr Gale Rigobert, one of the deputy leaders of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP).
Rigobert represents the Micoud North constituency in the House of Assembly, winning the seat in the 2011 general election. She was formerly a member of the Saint Lucian Senate and a former lecturer at the University of the West Indies.
Formal notification of the vote has been sent to Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy, signed by Rigobert and three other members of parliament: Arsene James, Guy Joseph and Edmund Estephane.
Section 67 of the Saint Lucia constitution provides that the governor-general shall appoint as leader of the opposition the member of the House who appears most likely to command the support of a majority of the members of the House who do not support the government.
If it appears to the governor-general that the leader of the opposition is no longer able to command the support of a majority of the members of the House who do not support the government, the governor-general shall remove the leader of the opposition from office.
The power of the governor-general under this section shall be exercised by her in her own deliberate judgment.
There has been no official word as to King’s reaction to the vote but there is some speculation that he may try to form a new party with the remaining UWP MP that did not vote against him, Richard Frederick, widely regarded as a King loyalist.
In that event, King and Frederick may join forces with other political elements in Saint Lucia opposed to the current St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government. Such an opposition coalition enjoyed electoral success in Trinidad and Tobago as the People’s Partnership and a similar coalition in St Kitts and Nevis – Team Unity – appears to be gaining ground there.
Regardless of King’s future political efforts, the move to oust him as opposition leader is likely to exacerbate an already serious rift within the UWP, since the party is likely to be deprived of its elder statesman in the shape of former prime minister King and a widely popular and dynamic member of parliament, Frederick.
The party’s current political leader, Allen Chastanet, has so far failed to win a seat in parliament and has recently come under vigorous attack by UWP activists as being responsible for the divisions within the party.
Furthermore, Chastanet, a former senator and tourism minister, is currently facing a civil action brought by the attorney general filed by the Attorney General’s Chambers, alleging conduct amounting to a “breach of his fiduciary duties as a minister of government, in bad faith and/or constitutes misfeasance in public office”.
Meanwhile, there is also speculation locally that current prime minister, Kenny Anthony, may seek to capitalise on the disarray within the UWP by calling early elections, which are not constitutionally due until 2016.