Tomorrow’s elections are part of the political earthquake causing the political earth to vibrate beneath our feet.
We are all curious as to what the new landscape will look like when the rocks have settled.
Frankly, many of us are frightened to look and the debris that will have to be scavenged.
The political leader of the ruling People’s Partnership coalition has boldly chosen to wave the banner of national political unity on the eve of the election.
This seems to be an admission that she believes that her party is beneath the rubble, and that she should perhaps widen the political goalposts.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar, who was at one time confident that she would win a second term in office seems to have come to the view that the death of the PNM has been much exaggerated, and that an all party grand coalition may be all that she could salvage.
The Prime Minister in fact went so far as to express a willingness to share power with the existing political parties instead of seeking to pursue a “winner take all” strategy in which she may lose everything. As she mused, “if I had my will, I would form a national government comprised of all groups. But our coalition government happens to be the closest ideal to that pursuit.” Contrary to what was suggested by Phillip Rochford in last Sunday’s Express, I believe that the Prime Minister has maxed out. The existing Partnership seems to be on the rocks, and one may well wonder whether the constituent parties would emerge from the present electoral encounters alive and well or dead before arrival.
The odds are that the coalition may well do horribly at the polls, having lost much of the support which it received in May 2010 to the PNM which seems to be re-attracting some of the support which had swung away from it in the wake of Manning’s adventurist and disastrous leadership initiatives in 2010.
And what of Dr Rowley? Despite his expressed willingness to work with the Prime Minister for certain specific ends, the PNM leader is of the view that the existing coalition Government has failed miserably and is on the verge of collapse.
Why would anyone want to enter a national government with a government that is at the bottom of the “U” curve? To quote Dr Rowley, “It is clear that we are in the throes of the most severe political and governance crisis that our country has ever seen. The country has lost all confidence in the Prime Minister.” The Prime Minister was said to be lacking in depth, and unable to make sound Cabinet choices.
She has had three bites at the Cabinet cherry since coming to power in 2010, all without any noticeable improvement in governability and likability. Understandably, Rowley had no interest whatever in sharing a government of national unity.
He was ready to take over. As he told the country, “She could speak for the cabal, but the PNM will have nothing to do with that. We want you out of the way so we can begin to take responsibility for this country and rectify the damage that you have done.”
Kamla’s problem is that she was dealt a bad hand following her political victory in 2010, and was not able to change it in any meaningful way.
She played badly by giving face cards to Jack, Also, before long, everybody had political cocoa in the sun or a reputation for so doing.
Kamla is not merely struggling to survive as political leader of the coalition, but equally important, is struggling to deter rebellion within her own ranks should she be defeated in tomorrow’s local government elections.
As Rowley argued, “The Prime Minister can’t take any action against any member of her Cabinet who is found to be unsuitable because she is afraid of what they would do and say about her. They keeping secret for her. The Prime Minister is held hostage by people with questions to answer...She is unable to do what any prime minister would have done, which is to remove them from office. The Cabinet is holding an all fours game, with Bissessar still holding on to the Jokers.”
As Rowley also quipped, “Each Cabinet minister had files on each other.”
True as all of this might be, Kamla is not about to abdicate or quell the unrest evident in the Partnership by calling early elections.
Understandably, she chose to avoid the political risks involved in debating against Warner and Rowley on Tuesday gone.
She missed a critical opportunity to show that she will not crawl on her belly as she once did. But she is doing just that.
Kamla probably still believes that her mission to be a great leader is not yet complete, and that everything will be all right.
As she consoled, “Let not your hearts be troubled; the welfare of Trinidad and Tobago is in capable hands; even crime which remains a huge challenge has gone from X to Y; and development is no longer centred just in the city and north of the island but touches the most remote and rural of areas that were hitherto sorely neglected.”
The Prime Minister also debunked the notion that she took instructions from anyone about whom to appoint to the Cabinet.
“You talk to every single one here, and you would find there is not a single person here who instructed me, whom I should keep, whom I should fire, whom I should hire...It is a perception...I think it is because I am a woman they feel that I cannot stand up on my own, so I must have five men propping me up. That does not happen.”
The Prime Minister ended her address saltily, “I only have one man propping me up, and that is Dr Bissessar.”
One hopes he has the fortitude to do so.
What will the new template look like after the rocks have ceased to tremble? How will Rowley and Warner fare? Dr Rowley should be the automatic beneficiary of the collapse of the old ethnically based party system. He is certainly the most accomplished of the active politicians. He is however burdened by the legacy of misgovernance which he was left by Mr Manning.
He is now carrying more baggage than a bellhop at a train station.
Jack is similarly overburdened.
For me, Rowley is the pick of the bunch.