(CMC) More than 160,000 registered voters are casting ballots on Monday to elect a new government in St. Lucia with the two main political parties confident they will be elected to run the affairs of the island for the next five years.
Voting began at 6 a.m. (local time) and the polling stations will remain open for a 12-hour period.
Both Prime Minister and leader of the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) Allen Chastanet, and Phillip J. Pierre, the Opposition Leader and leader of the main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) addressed the nation on Sunday night hoping to woo undecided voters into their camp.
In the 2016 general election, the UWP won 11 of the 17 seats in the Parliament, but political observers say it faces an uphill task in retaining the government.
The polls are being monitored by observer teams from the Commonwealth, the Organisation of American States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Apart from the two major parties, the newly formed Green National Party (GNP) is fielding eight candidates and there are four independent candidates including former prime minister Stephenson King, who caused a major stir when he announced his decision, a few hours after Prime Minister Chastanet had named the date for the general election.
King will be contesting the Castries North constituency which he has held for nearly three decades He is facing a challenge from Jeannine Giraudy-McIntyre, whose father, the late Henry Giraudy was a founding member of the party.
The polls are taking place as St. Lucia, like all other countries in the Caribbean, is severely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and health authorities have been urging voters to obey the various protocols aimed at preventing a spread of the virus that has killed 88 people and infected 5, 320 others here.
The St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) in a statement Sunday warned voters that COVID-19 is still a very real, very present threat to the population.
“We urge you, our fellow citizens, to adhere to the tried and tested public health protocols. Please ensure that you wear your masks correctly, continuously sanitise hands and in as much as possible when standing in line, stay six feet from others,” SLMDA public relations officer Dr. Monique Monplaisir said in the statement.