Coming from Jack Warner, former cabinet minister, former United National Congress (UNC) chairman, founder of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), projections for T&T politics and next year’s general election understandably draw the attention of political analysts and the general public. His own utterances on the topic came following the ILP’s first internal election.
“Next year’s election shall be the most brutal, the most racial,” he warned. Assuming he is not indulging in sensationalism, such a pronouncement must be taken seriously coming from anyone playing a leadership role in T&T’s politics.
Speaking as new chairman of the ILP, with former senator Lyndira Oudit thrust into the role of political leader, Mr Warner advertised the broadly representative racial breakdown of his party’s executive: “Five Indian, five African, one Chinese and another of Spanish origin”.
So described, this could make a good impression in the eyes of an electorate given to counting heads on the basis of race and colour. And the ILP is apparently positioning itself to be recognised as the third-force party, seeking to occupy ground that the Congress of the People (COP) has occupied, or claimed, as the alternative to the People’s National Movement (PNM) on one side and the UNC on the other.
For the fact of not holding the political leader position, Mr Warner will surely prove no less of a force to be reckoned with. It had been as deputy political leader of the UNC that, in late 2009, he threw his considerable weight behind the successful leadership candidacy of Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Mr Warner no doubt retains capacities to make things happen, especially with the COP in apparent decline. Today, however, his much-questioned past involvements in international football can be expected to continue to haunt, if not bedevil, his T&T political future. This realisation, more than the factor he identified of his advancing years, may have influenced his decision to deflect such focus as might have been drawn to the position of ILP political leader.
While he yet retains capacity to determine the shape of things to come, his prediction that coalition politics is here to stay necessarily calls attention to itself. For this has put T&T on notice to expect further efforts at developing “partnerships”.
With his instrumentality, and an electorate looking for a political vehicle into which to place fond hopes, the People’s Partnership came to enjoy runaway success in 2010. Things have notably since gone downhill.
Though it has not entirely come unstuck, the People’s Partnership is increasingly recognised more as the UNC and dependent friends, than as a viable coalition force. The coalition/partnership model, having hardly delivered on its promises, could conceivably have earned discredit in the eyes of voters. With Mr Warner’s continued presence as a player on the political stage, however, further dramatic turns, as elections draw near, should not be ruled out.