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THE LONG MARCH

By Selwyn Ryan

 The two massive public events which were held last week in our public squares marked the formal start of the election season.

The long march has begun, and the indications are that it will be a close and bitterly fought encounter, with both parties using all the latest in technology and psephology.

Money will also flow. So will the undercurrents of race.It  also seems that the election will be more of a plebiscite than a constituency-based event, as most others have been.

Let us first  focus on the two events. Both were massive and it’s a nonsense to say that either “bussed”.

 I am not in a position to say whether there were 25,000 or 35,000 persons present, but both were mega events, which tells us something about what is happening  in the larger society which is becoming more polarised and fretful than is usually the case. Much of the anxiety is suppressed and whispered sotto voce, but it is very much there for anyone who has ears to hear.

The UNC event was a celebration of its miraculous political survival. It was a disastrous year for the partnership and many expected it to fail.

The Partnership assumes that its ship of state had now  survived the crossing, and that it is at last headed north. We shall see over the next few months. As we say, it is a long march, or perhaps a marathon.

 It was however a well staged affair as these things go, but too much energy was devoted to demonising Rowley, especially since much of it was a regurgitation of stuff which Mr Manning had dredged up to deal with Rowley when the latter was the darling of the PP. 

As the evening proceeded, It became evident  that the UNC’s platform strategy will be to try and transform Rowley into a Creole “Rawan”.

This is understandable, but I suspect voters would tire of it and that it will backfire.

In terms of the polls, the results are mixed and somewhat Delphic. One can virtually read the tea leaves any way one wishes. We take  note of the interesting development that the Prime Minister was embarrassingly way ahead of her teammates in the same manner in which Eric Williams was in respect of those whom he called “millstones” in the 1976 elections. Williams prevailed because his coattails were strong enough to compensate for the drag the others represented. What does Kamla have to do to maintain the support which she is said to have? Will she campaign selectively as Williams did? Does she have the requisite  charisma to sustain her in a long march?

 To win, there are certain people whom she must sacrifice. This would however be difficult to do given the relationship which reportedly exists among some of them.  But then, she herself  promised that she would do what she has to do without fear or favour. It may that she has hoisted herself on her own petard.

 There was some curiosity as to  who would speak  at Mid Centre Mall and say what. What would the COP leadership say or do about Anil Roberts? Would the PM allow him to speak on the platform?  Would she give any hints about what she would do, or would she COP out and  leave it up to COP to decide? COP is in the middle of its electoral cycle, and many of its members were known to be unhappy about how their party has been treated over the past four years. Would they insist that Roberts be deleted? What position would Dookeran or whoever is the new leader  take in order to get the politics right?

 In the bad old days of the Soviet Union, analysts used to divine who was up or down by looking to see who was seated or standing close to Stalin. Our political voyeurs would note that only a few  of the party’s  notables were invited to say a few words, and that some were kept well hidden from the public glare. The exception was Moonilal who seems to be the default court favourite. We note that Rambachan and Ramlogan were sheltered, and that Roberts was only allowed a cameo appearance in which he tried hard to be seen close to the Prime Minister, as if he was seeking assurances that he had not fallen from grace. His was a clear case of hubris waiting to materialise.

As suggested above, the polls were counter-intuitive. Kamla was clearly ecstatic and visibly overcome by her showing. The oracles seem to be telling her that she was doing something right after all, and that she was finally beginning to head “North”.

Forty-eight per cent of the respondents were of the view that they were satisfied with how she was managing the country compared with 42 per cent who were dissatisfied, a net approval of six per cent. 

Her approval rating in 2013 was 37 per cent, a remarkable improvement  which led some to raise questions as to what was responsible for the heroic leap. It may well have been the episodic decision to get rid of Ramadharsingh, Chandresh Sharma and to her taking the wicket of a few other spectacular actors from First Citizens and the Airports Authority.

Did these firings show that the PM was finally convincing cynics that she had won the war against the mooted cabal ? If so, is her rise sustainable?

The interesting thing about Kamla’s showing in the polls is that It was not very different from that of Dr Rowley who was endorsed by 47 per cent of the sample, with 37 per cent disapproving (ten per cent net). Some newspaper headlines gave one a somewhat different impression. The bottom line, however, is that both leaders ran well, and  one might well have had said that it was a de facto draw rather than a sweeping victory for one side or the other as the headlines suggest. Both protagonists could afford to smile.

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