2009 Vincentian constitutional referendum
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politics and government of
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
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A constitutional referendum was held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on 25 November 2009. Voters were asked whether they approved of a new constitution which would have replaced the constitution in force since independence in 1979. The proposal was supported by only 43.13% of voters in the referendum, well short of the required two-thirds threshold. If approved, the proposed constitution would have abolished the monarchy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, headed by Queen Elizabeth II, and would have given more power to the opposition. The referendum was the first of its kind to be held by a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) campaigned heavily for the "Yes" vote, Gonsalves advocating that, though he had nothing personally against Queen Elizabeth II, he believed it was time for Saint Vincent to stop having a monarch as its head of state; he offered the opinion: "I find it a bit of a Nancy story that the Queen of England [sic] can really be the Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Though he had earlier shown affinity towards executive presidents Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, Gonsalves asserted that the proposed constitution for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines would not have created such a presidential post; the Prime Minister argued that an executive presidency would give the office holder too much power in the small country. In an interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Express, he stated that type of presidency "may well make perfect sense" for the neighbouring country of Trinidad and Tobago, but such a government would not work in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, saying further: "it is our assessment that to conjoin the power of a prime minister with the power of a head of state, head of government, or head of state in our circumstances, that is a matter which will end up making that office holder more powerful than the current situation."
Opposition to the constitutional changes was led by the New Democratic Party (NDP), which held the position that the proposed constitution would neither reduce the power of the prime minister nor strengthen the country's democracy. The NDP's leader, Arnhim Eustace, opined that the Gonsalves government and opposition parties had not come to an agreement on a number of fundamental issues, including the Integrity Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
The CARICOM Secretariat announced that it would, at the request of the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, officially observe the referendum, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID), an agency of the government of Spain.
Voting took place in heavy rain, with 52,262 of the 97,724 eligible Vincentiens casting ballots at 225 polling stations. The Supervisor of Elections opined that this was a good turn-out given the inclement weather.
|Invalid or blank votes||449||1.19|
|Registered voters and turnout||97,724||53.48|
|Source: SVG Government– Referendum Results|
- "CARICOM Secretariat team to observe St Vincent and the Grenadines referendum". Caribbean Net News. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2009.[dead link]
- Browne, Juhel (11 November 2009). "Gonsalves: No executive president for St. Vincent". Trinidad and Tobago Express. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
- Elizabeth II (26 July 1979), Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 50.1, Kingstown: Queen's Printer, retrieved 26 November 2009
- "CARICOM observers for St Vincent Constitution referendum". Caribbean 360. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
- Johnson, Andy (26 November 2009), "St Vincent leader's constitutional reform in danger", Trinidad and Tobago Express, archived from the original on November 27, 2009, retrieved 26 November 2009
- Trotman, Jeff (26 November 2009), "NO... NO...NO!!!", The Vincentian, retrieved 29 November 2009[permanent dead link]