Experienced politicians are emerging as strong performers in the 2017 general election count on St Helena – but the top slot appears to be going to political newcomer Russell Yon.
And on the basis of two samples of votes read out at the election count, two of the six female candidates looked certain not to win seat on legislative council, with another two looking doubtful.
In a selection of votes counted – in two samples – Russell Yon polled 181 votes to Dr Corinda Essex’s 172, both well clear of former executive councillors Brian Isaac and Derek Thomas, with 160 and 162 votes respectively.
The two veteran men were 35 votes clear of their next rival, Cyril Leo, on the basis of the two samples of votes.
Electors could vote for up to 12 candidates, though most voted for fewer. A number voted for Brian Isaac and no other candidate.
Clint Beard, Gavin Ellick and Lawson Henry also look likely to be elected.
Pamela Ward-Pearce and Marian Yon appear highly unlikely to secure a place on the council. They were both trailing far behind other candidates.
The initial sample – based on most but not all of the first voting papers read out – was a strong endorsement for the performance of Dr Essex, who has been an incisive figure in meetings of the previous legislative council.
It also gives a fillip to Gavin Ellick – better known as Eddie Duff – who only narrowly won a place on the council in the last general election but proved himself to be a popular “man of the people.”
Lawson Henry’s seat on the council looked secure but may be a disappointment nonetheless, given that he and Ian Rummery (not standing this time) were clear leaders in the previous general election.
He has been an outspoken critic of government officialdom and DFID, especially on matters relating to flights to Africa and links with Ascension Island.
The sample may not be a wholly accurate indication of the pattern of voting: different councillors moved up the rankings at points in the sampling.
St Helena’s election count is one of the most open in the world, with the votes cast on every single voting paper being read out at the count and broadcast on both the island’s radio stations.
Russell Yon is the son of Mervyn and Muriel Yon, both prominent islanders. He spent 25 years working on Ascension before returning home to work for airport contractor Basil Read.
In his election address, he said: “Some of my burning issues are our cost of living, minimum wage structure, cost of construction materials and most of all our communications both physically and digitally with the outside world.
“There have been changes over the years, some for the better others for the worst.
“I honestly feel that our Government have let their guard down over the preceding years and some issues have taken preference over more important ones.”
Dr Corinda was a senior government official before being elected to the previous legislative council. One of her first actions was to establish a radio programme, co-hosted with Derek Thomas, to open up debate about island affairs.
In her election address, she said: “I remain passionate about sustainable development of St Helena, which can only come about if Saints take the lead in making decisions for the island’s future and hold key positions to ensure that these are implemented consistently.
“In almost every legislative council meeting, I emphasised the need to retain, regain and value the skills and knowledge of our people, particularly those with specialist expertise which would reduce the need for expatriate input.”