Tough road ahead for COP
Try though he may, Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar cannot spin Monday’s shellacking of his party as anything less than a comprehensive defeat. This could well mean the COP’s demise, unless the party’s strategists can create an innovative method to regain ground before the 2015 general election.
Of more immediate concern is that the COP’s representatives in Parliament will now be ridden over in even more roughshod fashion by the majority United National Congress, the dominant partner in the People’s Partnership coalition. But it was the COP’s willingness to let the UNC have its head which contributed to their defeat in the local government elections in the first place.
And now the natural fallout is that party members, including his own brother, are calling for Mr Ramadhar to step down, the COP having failed to retain any of the regional corporations it held and its vote count cut by almost 50 per cent, from 64,473 in the 2010 local government elections to 32,496 three years later.
Whether those 30,000-odd voters put their X next to the People’s National Movement’s balisier or the Independent Liberal Party’s sugar cane stalk, or instead chose to stay out of the polling booths on election day, the bare fact is that they withdrew their support for the COP.
So from the party seen as representing the “conscience” of the nation, when expediency and blind loyalty are the norm for many voters, the COP’s support base has dwindled rapidly.
It is up to those left to rally around the circle of circles, whether they stick with their colleagues in the People’s Partnership, or attempt to once again forge their own identity in national politics. At this stage, both may seem to be no-win situations, the UNC having reduced the COP to little more than nuisance value when it came to expressing dissent against decisions taken by the ruling coalition.
If Mr Ramadhar and his executive had been more forceful in standing up for principle since the general election in May 2010, rather than merely doing the bidding of the UNC majority, the COP might have held on to its staunch supporters.
So with more of the same sure to come before 2015, the disgruntled remnants who called for Mr Ramadhar’s resignation this week will have to identify his successor and throw their support behind that person as the nation looks ahead to the next general election.
Whether they can convince someone dynamic enough to step into the breach, someone with trusted ethical principles and the charisma necessary for any successful politician, is left to be seen.
Such a person may not exist among the remaining COP loyalists and they may have to convince a disenchanted luminary to rekindle his ties with the party. Whatever route they take, it will be a tough, maybe even impossible, task to regain the feel-good aura that surrounded the COP when it was first conceived.
There still may be a place for a concept like the COP in T&T politics, but it will take great strength of will and character for such a party to make its mark.