The Congress of the People had the more difficult corporations to fight.
So said chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan as she sought to explain the poor showing of the COP in the local government elections.
The COP won a total of four seats- three on the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation and one on the San Fernando Corporation. The COP lost the six Corporations it contested—Diego Martin, Arima, San Fernando, San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco and Sangre Grande—all to the PNM. In most of those corporations, the COP found itself running last, behind even the Independent Liberal Party. The ILP won one seat in the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation and two seats in the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.
Seepersad-Bachan said the corporations the COP contested were “the marginals”. “They were never held by the UNC or the COP before 2010, The voting population for the PNM in those corporations was very high whether it is Diego Martin, Port of Spain, Arima or San Fernando,” she said.
Seepersad-Bachan also represents the San Fernando West constituency, in which a number of the polling stations comprising the San Fernando Corporation fall. Explaining why the PNM won eight of the nine seats on that Corporation, Seepersad-Bachan said it was clear that in the San Fernando Borough Corporation, the ILP split the vote. “If you added ILP and COP, we would have won five to six seats,” she said. She said the People’s Partnership had won seven seats of the nine seat in 2010, but two of those seats were won by a very small margin. “What I saw from the figures (in 2013) is that the PNM votes stayed constant (from 2010). So it is clear that ILP took our (People’s Partnership) votes,” she said.
“What happened is that as much as we tried, as the COP, to get people to focus on local government election issues, that did not happen. People focused on issues of Central Government,” she said. She said the COP did not see the ILP or the PNM candidates campaigning in San Fernando. “What we saw was a lot of music trucks in San Fernando,” she said. She said the COP candidates went door to door and spoke to people and it was clear that the electorate was “obsessed” with Central Government issues and were not focussing on performance at the local government level, on plans for local government reform and the plans for that particular electoral district.
“The ILP vote was more the venom-type, protest vote against the PP. It was not necessarily a vote for the ILP. I don’t think people even knew who they voted for when it came to the ILP.” She said the ILP campaign only consisted of the platform and the air (radio and TV) waves. She said it was “endless advertising” centred around Interim Political Leader Jack Warner, Chairman Robin Montano and deputy political leader Anna Deonarine, none of whom was going to represent the electorate in the councils.
She said the issues in the White Paper on Local Government Reform did not take precedence in the campaign at all. She added that the politicians themselves who were campaigning confused the issues (central and local government). She said she was disappointed with the character assassination during the campaign on the public platform, especially when people presented false information. She said the ILP in particular was guilty of this and the PNM, to a lesser extent.
On the issue of a possible reconciliation with the ILP, she said she had no comment since the COP had said enough on this issue.
On the charge of the COP’s inability to distinguish itself from the UNC, Seepersad-Bachan said from last November to this year May the COP was condemned for sitting in the same Cabinet with Warner and not demanding his removal. She said after the Sir David Simmons report the COP called for his removal. Yet, she said, today she was seeing the “same people condemning us (the COP) for asking for his removal. “So I do not understand what the people of this country are saying or asking for,” she said.