2013 election: older men dominate once again

The list of candidates standing in the 2013 general election on St Helena may be a disappointment for Governor Mark Capes.

While the line-up of 20 candidates is healthy enough, only four of them are women and even fewer of them could be called young.

Mr Capes dissolved the island’s legislative council in April 2013, nearly three months before the election date.

He said at the time: “By allowing quite a long period between the announcement today and the general election in July, I hope we may see more people coming forward to stand for election, especially those who would be doing so for the first time.

“I hope too that more women and younger people will stand, so that LegCo has a fresher, more balanced and representative membership at this exciting time in St Helena’s history.”

That prompted a protest to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, signed by 11 of the 12 councillors who lost their seats in the surprise dissolution.

They wrote: “The governor’s statements appear to infringe our human rights as it could imply that older people make poor decisions.

“As a consequence some of our members’ chances for re-election, and indeed the election hopes of new candidates of a mature age, could be seriously jeopardised.”

As it turns out, nearly all the candidates are over 50, with some in their late sixties or early seventies.

And the former members of LegCo – the island’s parliament – have refused to take the governor’s apparent hint about wanting the next council to have a “fresher” membership: nine of the 12 are standing for election again.

Only Rodney Buckley, John Cranfield and Stedson Francis have decided not to enter the fray. Mr Buckley had already made his decision before the election was announced.

More than half of the candidates have served on LegCo at some time in the past.

The 20 candidates include three who were not born St Helenian: Les Baldwin, Ian Rummery and Nigel Dollery.

Bernice Olsson and Christine Scipio o’Dean, the only two female members of the last LegCo at the point when it was dissolved, are standing again despite murmurs of a chauvinistic culture among some councillors.

The other two female candidates are Audrey Constantine and Brenda Moors.

Three would-be councillors are members of the Citizenship Commission, which has continued to keep a critical watch on island affairs since winning its fight for Saints to be given back their British status after it was removed by Margaret Thatcher.

The commission has since supported the St Helena Freedom of Information Campaign.

The initial announcement of the candidates’ names did not make it clear how many had joined Stedson George in his newly-launched St Helena Democratic Socialist Party – an attempt to give government clearer political direction.

St Helena Online asked Vince Thompson, columnist on the St Helena Independent, for an assessment of the candidates.

His comments – with no names attached – included:

  • hopeless – plenty of questions but no answers” 
  • “hard working, intelligent”
  • “lightweight”
  • intelligent, alert and independent minded”
  • rebellious”
  • energetic but not as focused as is desirable”  
  •  “has an eye for detail – can keep his teeth into an issue”
  •  “normally quiet – unknown quantity”
  • amusing personality but political acumen needs to be demonstrated”

Readers might like to try to guess which comments apply to which candidates.

(The candidates described here are not named because some of their rivals attracted no comment, and so to pick out individuals would be unfair).

READ MORE: St Helena election stories

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