What is being hailed as a significant development in the political discourse of the country, with the recently concluded debate among leaders of the political parties whose members are candidates in the upcoming THA (Tobago House of Assembly) elections, I view as a retrograde step.
Observe carefully, I did not say parties contesting the elections because that would be incorrect. The political parties are simply exercising their right to promote members of their respective organisations in their candidacy.
It is being said the debate was meant to mirror the US presidential debate. The problem with that is in the US model, both the incumbent and challenger are contesting the position of president, which is on their ballot paper, as opposed to our system where leadership is not a contested position.
The three leaders are not coming up against each other. The electorate is not being asked to vote for a Chief Secretary of the THA. All that is being contested are positions on the assembly, after which a chief secretary will be chosen. What is the value or significance of the outcome of the debate if a person can only vote for a candidate in the district in which he or she lives?
Years ago when the now infamous comment, "If I put a crapaud in a balisier, vote for it," was made, it created an unwholesome dimension to our electioneering, referred to as "crapaud politics". Although the concept existed in other parties without being so articulated, for years, it was frowned upon as promoting die-hard party cronyism among the electorate.
Is it not a perpetuation of the same "crapaud syndrome" by attempting to influence the electorate to vote for a candidate simply because he/she was put up by a particular party?