The person who coined the phrase, “Nice guys finish last,” needs to meet Crenston Buffonge. Because the rising political star has defied that notion in a mighty way.
The personable Buffonge garnered 1,378 votes to lead a victory Monday for the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) party in the 2019 Montserrat general election. Five MCAP candidates finished in the top nine, claiming the crucial majority needed to ascend party leader Joseph Easton Taylor-Farrell into the role of Premier.
Farrell assumes the helm from Donaldson Romeo, who served from 2014 until October 7, 2019, when terms expired for members of the Legislative Assembly. Romeo, who earned the most votes in the 2014 election, left the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) following a party vote October 8 that ousted him as leader in favor of Paul Lewis. Two weeks later Romeo announced he will contest the election as an independent candidate.
Lewis earned the second-most votes Monday and Romeo the fourth-most. The former PDM allies now find themselves in the somewhat awkward position of working together as members of the opposition. MCAP will inherit several projects that were approved by the British government during the PDM administration, so it will be interesting to see if an opposition made up of three PDM members, plus a former PDM leader (Romeo), shows resistance to its own attainments.
The new government will be comprised of five MCAP members, three PDM and one independent.
“It’s how you make people feel that they will always remember. Treat all persons fairly and in turn you will get the reward someday.”Crenston Buffonge
But the big surprise was the rise of Buffonge, a ticketing agent at the Montserrat port who failed to earn a seat as an independent candidate in 2014 but crushed the competition Monday. Buffonge held the top spot consistently as results trickled in Monday evening. He bested second-place finisher Lewis by 127 votes, earning solid support from just about every region of the island.
“If I was to say [I knew] it would turn out that way I’d be lying,” Buffonge told Radio Montserrat about getting the most votes. “I’m overwhelmed by the support and I want to say thank you to everyone who put their trust in me. They’ve showed clearly they have some level of confidence in me and what I can deliver.”
Buffonge says his many years of service, along with his respectful demeanor, helped catapult him with the electorate.
“I’ve been in service for quite a while, since the volcano,” he says. “There is a scripture that says, ‘He that exalts himself shall be humbled and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. That has been my motto. It’s how you make people feel that they will always remember. Treat all persons fairly and in turn you will get the reward someday.”
Another surprise vote-getter was first-time candidate Veronica Dorsette-Hector, an attorney and former magistrate who was crowned Miss Montserrat during the 1990 festival. The MCAP candidate earned 1,007 votes Monday, fifth-best overall.
Three candidates who held seats in the previous administration failed to get re-elected.
● Dr. Ingrid Buffonge, who ran with PDM in 2014 and earned the second-most overall votes, fell short this time as an independent candidate. She earned 861 votes, just 11 behind the No. 9 spot.
“Well it wasn’t meant to be for me,” Buffonge posted on Facebook around 1 a.m. Tuesday when results were still incomplete. “Congratulations to the new MCAP government! The people have spoken.”
● Delmaude Ryan, who ran the colossal Ministry of Education, Health, Social Services, Youth Affairs, Sports and Ecclesiastical Affairs during the PDM administration, earned just 687 votes Monday (she earned 1,205 votes in 2014). Already facing criticism for shortcomings in the health care system, among other issues, Ryan further rankled locals during a recent debate when she stated that “Montserrat is owned by the British government.” She later clarified her remarks, but the damage was done.
● Gregory “Sagga” Willock, another former PDM seat-holder turned opposition member, also failed to resonate with voters five years later. Willock launched his Montserrat National Congress (MNC) “brand” ― borrowing the name from the African National Congress once headed by Nelson Mandela ― but his populist approach and fiery speeches appeared to have grown stale with voters. Some said Willock’s appeal seemed rife with desperation.
The protracted 2019 election season was among the nastiest in memory, with rival supporters exchanging threats and vile insults on social media. The MCAP party even filed a libel suit again a journalist and PDM supporter. The parties traded barbs during contentious rallies and there were jingles, radio ads and other tactics as each group attempted to gain an edge.
But in the end MCAP appeared to be the one that was most unified with a central theme. The party drove its message with a marketing blitz boosted by spiffy posters, screaming billboards, omnipresent radio appearances and a raucous final rally Sunday headlined by Antigua soca artists Tian Winter and Claudette “C.P.” Peters.
“Well it wasn’t meant to be for me. Congratulations to the new MCAP government! The people have spoken.”Dr. Ingrid Buffonge
The Montserrat United Labor Party (MULP) had a disappointing finish in its election debut. The best showing of the five candidates came from Peter Queeley at No. 19 overall.
“The people did not accept the message and the proposals advanced by the MULP,” Queeley posted on Facebook. “I live by the principal [sic] that the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Many believed a coalition government would be elected, but for the third election cycle in a row constituents opted for the party route.
Also having a disappointing night was former Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne, who earned only 253 votes and failed to join her brother David as a Parliamentarian. Shirley Osborne had a clear grasp of the issues ― plus the iconic Osborne surname ― but she has been dogged by a reputation for being domineering.
“Go Montserrat!!! Congratulations MCAP!” Osborne wrote on Facebook. “Let’s all now see what you got!”
Click here to view the complete 2019 Montserrat Elections results.