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Analysts: US lessons for Govt

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Learn from Obama.

Local political analysts have said there are key lessons the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led Government can learn from US President Barack Obama's second victory, which includes keeping in touch with the people.

The Express spoke to several political analysts such as Dr Winford James, Derek Ramsamooj and Dr Bishnu Ragoonath on their views on Obama's victory and how this country can gain from it.

The Prime Minister, in extending congratulations to Obama yesterday, noted the president earned his re-election as "he remained grounded in politics of hope and delivery to the people".

And James noted that both the Obama and Persad-Bissessar regimes came in on a "wave of change", but the Government here was not living up to the expectations of the people.

He noted that the Obama administration had an agenda where they tried to pursue diversification, in terms of participation of minorities.

"This Government came in on the Fyzabad Accord and promptly abandoned it; a number of promises were made, like the procurement legislation, for example, which have not been delivered," said James.

The People's Partnership, said James, has made "unfavourable errors", and nothing much has changed from the former Patrick Manning-led administration.

He however noted that Obama was not true to the promises he made in 2008, in terms of improving the American economy, but said he was re-elected because he had the goodwill of the people.

"I don't think they (People's Partnership) will face the same kind of goodwill Obama has faced. Their policy of running the Government is not clear; there is a set of individuals and mavericks doing their own thing. There are some benefiting from the status quo which they cry out on the hustings against; silliness is coming from the mouths of ministers, in particular, the Minister of National Security," said James.

"All we can see clearly is a group of men and women who have replaced the PNM group of men and women," he added.

This Government, he said, has squandered a lot of the goodwill of the people, and one must wait to see whether that can be reclaimed.

James said local politicians can take note of the respect the American candidates had for each other and also look at the issue of campaign financing.

Ramsamooj also said that keeping close to the people and keeping goodwill alive were important.

"One of the major lessons to be learned of the recently concluded American election would be the requirement of political leadership to be sensitive to the demands and concerns of the electorate and to ensure that policies and programmes that are advocated are of relevance to improving the quality of life for the country," he said.

He noted that Obama faced the challenge of a financial meltdown, yet he listened to the cries of the automobile industry and bailed them out, resulting in support in Ohio.

"Another major lesson for our politicians would be the capacity of our leaders to connect with the electorate and to have a high level of empathy between leadership and the electorate," he said.

He pointed out that Obama's campaign focused on electoral connectivity, and his messages resonated with the average voter.

Local politicians, he added, must note that the electorate was constantly evolving, and the support of the "swing voters" was also crucial to attract sustainable political office.

Ragoonath, however, questioned, "With all the shortcomings of the Obama administration's first term, he still returned as president, so does that tell us that something like that can happen in Trinidad?"

Obama's campaign team, he said, focused on the people, even during the president's four-year tenure.

He said Obama's team continued the task of identifying supporters and ensuring they remained loyal.

"That is the lesson: to remain grounded and in touch with the people," he said.

Another lesson, he said, was to be all-inclusive and embrace all the people of the nation.

"The Republicans lost the election because they were not all-inclusive...they depended largely on the white American vote," he said.

Ragoonath noted in this country, the PNM was still "Afro-dominated" and the UNC was still "Indo-dominated".

"They are not all-inclusive and that is something that has to be seriously considered," said Ragoonath, adding that the recent statement by National Security Minister Jack Warner on race was "pushing the Afro-Trinidad community out".

Ragoonath also suggested that the issue of campaign financing be looked at.

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