With a voter turnout of 62% the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) pulled out a narrow victory in Monday’s General Elections on Montserrat. Only 2411 of the 3858 registered voters turned out to cast their ballots to elect nine of the 35 candidates contesting to serve in the Montserrat legislature.
Results were final at about 3AM on Tuesday morning, with MCAP winning a majority with five seats, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) with three and the outgoing premier Donaldson Romeo winning a seat running as an independent candidate.
The biggest surprise of the night was the number one vote-getter who was a newcomer to the MCAP party. Crenston Buffonge, a farmer and travel service agent, ran as an independent candidate in 2014 gaining 540 votes. He joined the MCAP in 2018 and went on to beat his party leader Joseph Taylor-Farrell (1210 votes), current leader of the PDM Paul Lewis (1251 votes) as well as the former premier Donaldson Romeo (1060 votes) for the top spot with 1378 votes.
Also collecting seats for MCAP were Veronica Dorsette-Hector (1007 votes), Dr Samuel Joseph (998 votes) and Charles Kirnon (970 votes). Winning seats for the PDM were David Osborne (947 votes) and outgoing minister of Agriculture Claude Hogan (873 votes).
Premier Elect Joseph Taylor-Farrell said early Tuesday that they would have liked to have a won with a slightly larger majority. He called it a bittersweet win for his team, adding it was time to heal the country. The campaign had been marred by character assassinations and mudslinging targeted at their party. Last week, he and the MCAP chairman Austin Howe filed a defamation lawsuit during the course of the campaign against a digital media house.
Outgoing Premier Romeo had announced in early October that elections would be held in six weeks, which began an intense and often verbally venomous campaign from some factions. In the days following the announcement, Romeo was ousted as leader of the PDM party in what they said was a democratic process. He then decided to run in the elections as an independent. The decision to remove Romeo from leadership cost the PDM as he was still the fourth highest vote-getter overall, showing there were still many who supported him.
Dr Ingrid Buffonge, the second highest vote-getter for the PDM party in 2014 was unable to obtain a seat after running as an independent.
Newcomers, the Montserrat United Labour Party (MULP) led by economist Peter D.A. Queeley (482 votes) was denied a seat in the legislature despite campaigning heavily on private sector growth strategies. None of its five members made the top 15. Queeley said on his social media around 11PM that “based on the results thus far the trend is clear and the people have spoken. The people did not accept the message and proposals advanced by the MULP…. The MULP have accepted the voice of the people and as such we would reform and come again.”
The Montserrat National Congress, while making its first entry in the elections, was comprised of three previous members of parliament led by former Chief Minister and Surgeon Dr Lowell Lewis (327 votes), Gregory Willock (405 votes) who left the PDM in 2018 and activist Chedmond Browne (96 votes). They also did not take any of the available seats.
Head of the International Election Mission Julian Robinson MP from Jamaica said Monday evening that his team visited all of the polling stations throughout the day. He said the process was smooth and the staff were very well trained. Robinson called it one of the smoothest elections he had ever seen. He and his team are expected to present their preliminary findings on the election observation on Wednesday morning.
Commissioner of Police Steve Foster said the election campaign season had been without incident and so had polling day.
Premier-Elect Taylor-Farrell is expected to appear before Governor Andy Pearce to declare his intentions to form the new government and present his team.
The elections come at a crucial time when the island is preparing for its annual budgetary discussions with the British development aid agency DFID and an upcoming UN Decolonisation Mission in December.
Check out the complete results at elections.ms.