Long-serving Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Keith Mitchell has lost his bid for another term in office.
Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) were defeated by a margin of 9 to 6 seats by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by political newcomer Dickon Mitchell in the country’s general election held on 23 June 2022 with a 70% voter turnout.
NDC’s victory is historic given that Dickon Mitchell, a 44-year-old lawyer, was contesting his first election and only took over leadership of the party eight months ago. It is made more significant because none of the NDC candidates were Members of Parliament at the time of the election.
Several regional leaders have publicly congratulated the new Prime Minister on his victory.“We wish you, in your role as the next Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, every success, recognising that there is tremendous potential in the youthful vigour and fresh thought you can bring to the management of the affairs of your country and the leadership of the region,” wrote Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley in a congratulatory letter.
In a Tweet, Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves congratulated the Prime Minister Elect, adding that he looks forward to working with the new government in advancing the regional agenda. “I look forward to working closely with you, Prime Minister-elect, in the interests of our countries and in the wider interests of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),” said Antiguan Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.
During his swearing in as the country’s ninth Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell pledged to end nepotism for which the previous government had been criticised.
“We need to run our country based on merit, hard work, the desire and willingness to overcome and to find solutions to the challenges that face us. We will not move forward or prosper as a people on the sole basis for job selection, promotion, for the award of contracts on party loyalty or personal loyalty,” warned Mitchell.
The new Prime Minister also vowed to reform the electoral process. “We believe we need to significantly strengthen our electoral process. It is in dire need of reform, it has to function to serve the people, it has to be service oriented, it has to be efficient and it as to be a system that encourages our citizens to vote rather than discourages them,” said Mitchell.
Days later, the Prime Minister named an 11-member Cabinet which includes two women and is smaller than the 13 employed by the previous administration. The composition of the Cabinet is “meant to reflect our campaign promises to the people of Grenada to begin the transformation of Grenada,” said Mitchell.
Noteworthy appointments include the Prime Minister as Minister of Finance, National Security, Home Affairs and Public Administration, Information and Disaster Management; Joseph Andall – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Export Development; Lennox John Andrews – Minister of Economic Development, Agriculture, Planning, Blue Economy, Creative Economy, Tourism and ICT; Dennis Cornwall – Minister of Infrastructure and Physical Development, Civil Aviation and Transportation; and Kerryne Zennelle James – Minister of Climate Resilience, Environment and Renewable Energy.
During the ceremony, Prime Minister Mitchell announced that he would end the ongoing salary dispute by instructing the Ministry of Finance “to repay to the teachers of Petite Martinique, Carriacou, and Grenada the salaries that were docked unjustly from them and that those payments should be made as early as the end of July 2022”.
As Minister of National Security, Mitchell has reportedly sanctioned changes to the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) including several reassignments in the high command. Many are speculating that these changes were influenced by the Prime Minister’s advisors on security which reportedly includes a former Commissioner of Police and retired senior police officers.
The new Prime Minister has also promised a review of those representing the country as diplomats around the world. Referring to several appointments of foreign nationals by the former administration, he said that those given the honour of serving the country in those capacities should be Grenadian and have Grenada’s best interest at heart.
This is the NDC’s first time in office since winning the 2008 general election. The party went on to suffer back-to-back 15 to zero defeats at the polls in 2013 and 2018 at the hands of Keith Mitchell’s NNP who was seeking an unprecedented sixth term as Prime Minister in this election. The 75-year-old leader had previously announced that this would be his last political campaign as party leader.
This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, our sister publication from The Caribbean Council.