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REFLECTIONS ON THE COP ELECTION

 Prakash Ramadhar proclaimed himself victorious following the declaration of the results of the recently held COP intra-party leadership elections. He did so notwithstanding the fact that he had  secured a mere 1,473  of the approximately 49,000 registered voters.

The  voter turnout—2,667 or 5.5 per cent—was also derisively small. 

Another candidate for the political leadership, Mrs Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan secured only 1,028 votes while a third candidate, Dr Lincoln Douglas, received a mere 162 votes. 

The party had not spoken clearly and one could not meaningfully boast of being the leader of anything.

If anything, the party is in sociological exile. The thing to resolve, however, is which of the “three” parties is legitimate as opposed to merely being legal.

Another casualty of the election was Winston Dookeran, the founder of the party.

Dookeran established the party in 2006 in an attempt to break the political stranglehold which the two mass national parties had established over the post independence decade.

Dookeran failed in his effort to create a “new politics” and resigned in 2011.

There was much speculation as to whether he might be persuaded to come out of retirement in a desperate attempt to reinflate the COP, a party which many had come to regard as being moribund.

Dookeran seems to have suspected that not even he could get the PP to rise again. He was in fact reputed to have opined that the PP was in fact dead. 

To the surprise of many, however, he self-servingly endorsed Ms Seepersad-Bachan instead of Mr Ramadhar, and hinted that he might seek the chairmanship if Seepersad-Bachan won the election. 

As he said unambiguously and somewhat arrogantly, “when you win the election, you may get me to do the impossible, and that is to fight my sixth  election in 2015”. 

That will be history for a person, but it would be a saviour for a nation. Dookeran may have been of the view that he was the proverbial hero waiting  in the wings for his call to come back on stage for an encore. 

Interestingly, Dookeran endorsed Seepersad-Bachan and went on to say that she  had the best chance of dealing with the corruption issue which was consuming the partnership.

He shocked many when he declared that she cant’be bought. Was he perhaps hinting loudly that some of his colleagues in the Cabinet were  up for sale? It was a remarkable comment, which must have made some of his colleagues extremely angry. Interestingly, Mr Ramadhar went on record with a view that there were no corrupt elements in the Cabinet, an opinion that was not widely held.

One of the many questions which engaged the attention of party members was which leader, if any, best fulfilled their expectations. Another related question was whether the C0P was stone dead or merely in repose.

Seepersad-Bachan and her supporters were of the view that the main cause of the crisis in the party was that Mr Ramadhar had kow towed to the UNC. 

In their view, he had sold out the party for a mess of pottage.

Ramadhar insisted otherwise, and indicated that one had to be realistic.

What was politically desirable from one angle of a coalition might not always be historically possible.

The coalition arrangements were badly negotiated by Dookeran at Fyzabad, and the COP did not have much room to manoeuvre. It had however constructively brought change to  the country, and had maintained its core principles. 

As is the case in coalitions, parties claim what is to their advantage and disown what is not. The case of Anil Roberts is a perfect example.

He was seen as being a heavy burden for the party to bear. For reasons which are not entirely clear, the UNC saw him as a resource upon which they might have to depend when the support of the street becomes more crucial.

My own judgement is that the party is now a corpse, and that unfortunately, the age of Lazarus is over.

While writing this column, I recalled a discussion that took place in the pages of the Sunday Express in  August 1994-5 which had to do with the question of what should or would supporters of the National Alliance of Reconstruction (NAR) do now that the party seemed to be in a state of near collapse.

Would they vote strategically or on the basis of leadership or ethnicity? The same question is currently being asked. Would COP voters vote strategically or on the base of variables such as race, religion, class, gender, geography or whim?

One view that was strongly held then was that NAR executives should not join the UNC platform as they were being asked to, since by doing so, they would compromise their party’s organisational integrity 

For all kinds  reasons, the UNC would find governance more difficult than the PNM, and might calculate that the NAR might provide the cross ethnic legitimacy and implementation capability which a UNC government will lack. 

Mr Panday made the point that he was not only interested in winning, but needed to win an election in such a manner that he would be able to govern. In other words, he was signalling that in order to be an effective government, he had to have a united people. In sum, a NAR link might give a UNC victory the sustainability which it might not otherwise obtain.

Mr Selby Wilson, then political leader of the NAR, had an interesting perspective on the issue. He argued that the issue would be decided by sociology and party history. Because of the structure of the NAR and because the UNC, as it were, splintered off from the NAR, both parties had a significant number of people who were “floating voters” between the UNC and the NAR. 

Mr Wilson could of course have added that just as there were “floaters” between the NAR and the UNC, there were also “floaters” between the NAR and the PNM, and that the attempts on the part of the former to gravitate towards the UNC would generate a corresponding move by the latter to the PNM.

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