Grenada provisional government will have to deal with a political power vacuum
St. George's, Grenada
After four years of rule by an authoritarian charismatic leader, followed by the startling events of the last 3 1/2 weeks, Grenadians are beginning to emerge from their shock and contemplate what remains of their political system.
The governor general, Sir Paul Scoon, has been consulting local civic, trade union, and church leaders about the makeup of a provisional government for several days. He was expected to announce a provisional government of leading technocrats today.
But any such new government will take over a situation here that borders on a political vacuum. There are no clear parties or leaders ready to campaign in the election that Sir Paul has promised will take place within six months to a year from now, let alone ready to provide much-needed long-run stability.
Meanwhile, various groups are waiting on the sidelines, both in Grenada and abroad, hoping eventually to fill the void to their own advantage.
In such an uncertain political climate, some observers in the Caribbean and the United States are saying that it would be better if the US troops did not get sucked into a lengthy peacekeeping role. Rather, these observers say, the peacekeeping chore should be given to a lower-profile, less controversial Commonwealth group.
It is also unclear to what extent the Reagan administration and Grenada's neighbors will try to exert an influence on Grenada's political scene. The New Jewel Movement (NJM), for instance, which ran the island after its March 1979 coup until the invasion, remains an important political factor although greatly weakened.
This overall state of political uncertainty prompts many Grenadians to recommend that the elections be pushed back a full year, rather than be called in six months. They are concerned that not only is the NJM weak, but also that there is: (1) a right wing which is energetic but unlikely to address the social aspirations of substantial segments of the population; and (2) a former virtual dictator, Sir Eric Gairy, who has some support among the rural poor but is regarded by almost all educated observers in the Caribbean and US as a dangerous charlatan.
Today, most Grenadian observers believe that NJM's popular base, such as it ever had, has been severely eroded. Its charismatic leader, Maurice Bishop, and several other NJM leaders have been killed. The Cubans, who were imported by the NJM, were widely feared and disliked.
In addition, many Grenadians have high hopes that the Reagan administration will prove a generous new benefactor.
However, many of these Grenadian observers also feel that as the initial shock of Bishop's death and the invasion continues to fade, many of Bishop's supporters - meaning perhaps a majority of Grenada's youth - would support an election candidate committed to preserving some of the more positive aspects of the Bishop regime.
There are many Grenadians who are critical of Bishop's excesses but who worry what will happen to support for Bishop-sponsored mass education, adult education classes, literacy campaigns, and health programs that send paramedics to the villages rather than build shiny new hospitals in town.
They also praise the achievements of some of the grass roots organizations, like the village and zonal councils. These operated in some ways like old New England town meetings, discussing public budgets and giving people more say in the decisions affecting their daily lives.
Many Grenadians, also not necessarily Bishop's supporters, have misgivings about returning to what they see as old-fashioned parliamentary elections. Instead, they would prefer a system in which the people would vote for representatives in their own villages, and the village representatives would constitute a council which in turn would elect a parliament from among its own members. This, they say, would ensure greater direct popular participation and make it more difficult for demagogic political parties or leaders based in the capital of St. George's to swoop down into the villages and manipulate or buy up the vote.
Most observers see little chance of the NJM as such transforming itself into a political party and winning elections in a year's time. The New Jewel was very much a movement, and very little an organized political party. It was started in the early 1970s when two factions largely made up of radical, idealistic students merged to form a grass-roots organization that rejected the very concept of political parties. Influenced by Tanzania's ujamaa movement and the ideas of the US New Left, they wanted to build a series of grass-roots groups that would induce more direct participation of the average Grenadian in the political process and the decisionmaking that affected his daily life. They did not believe in the kind of strong, centralized, tightly run party which governs most communist countries.
Maurice Bishop, the murdered prime minister, had widespread popular support. Much of that support, however, was given to him rather than to the NJM which he headed.
As prime minister, Bishop was guilty of some authoritarian behavior, including press censorship and the jailing of about a hundred political opponents, some of whom were tortured. But his overall aim was to keep the NJM as a loose grass-roots organization.
Bishop's deputy, however, Bernard Coard, pushed for the tight Stalinist type of party structure prevalent in the Soviet Union. This was one of the main reasons behind the two men's fatal confrontation.
Now that both men are eliminated (Coard is in jail after being captured by US forces), Grenadian observers see a slim possibility that some of the other NJM leaders might make a comeback. The name most often mentioned in this regard is George Louisohn, Bishop's minister of agriculture - a moderate with a base of rural support and allegedly a good public speaker although lacking in Bishop's charisma. Other NJM leaders now serving as diplomats in Washington and the United Nations are also mentioned. There is even talk of the NJM putting up some sort of collective leadership.
However, a more likely way for a left-of-center candidate to gain power would be for a progressive candidate not directly involved in the last few years of the Bishop government to emerge. Mentioned most frequently is Patrick Emmanuel, a political scientist at a research institute connected to the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Emmanuel, active in the early years of NJM is reputed to intelligent, articulate, progressive, but definitely non-Communist. He is already involved in setting up the provisional government. For these reasons, he is seen as a candidate who might be able to command support, not only on the left but also among people who are not Bishop supporters. Such a candidate would be expected to found his own movement, rather than attempt to resurrect the NJM.
Some left of center Grenadians are concerned that they have not been represented in the consultations which the governor general held prior to forming the provisional government. Instead, by focusing on civic leaders and excluding all former politicians, the governor has relied upon a comparatively conservative group, made up largely of businessmen and representatives of the churches.