Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should keep her promise and stand for principle by calling the local government elections.
This is the view of political analysts as well as Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley.
Two weeks ago, Persad-Bissessar said she personally held firm to her belief that elections must be held when they are constitutionally due but UNC councillors proposed that the local government elections be postponed given the party’s defeat in the Chaguanas West by-election.
Local Government Minister Suruj Rambachan on Monday presented the White Paper on Local Government reform but said calling of the elections was still in the Prime Minister’s hands.
Sources have told the Express that Government received a legal opinion that the local government elections can be postponed as a motion can be taken to the Parliament retroactively giving life to local government bodies.
Speaking to the Express by phone yesterday, political analyst Dr Hamid Ghany said: “It is important that elections be held because that was one of the mantras when this Government came into power.
“Having elections on time is a matter of principle as opposed to a matter of promise and I think that is one of the core principles of the Prime Minister.”
Ghany said political trends tend to change and the Government’s defeat at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and Chaguanas West polls did not mean they could lose the general election.
“When I see these things I’m reminded of Barack Obama in 2010. The Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and in 2012 he came on to win the presidency. Bill Clinton in 1994, the Republican won control of the House and Senate and went back to win two years later in 1996 by a landslide to be re-elected as president. So current trends may be one thing but future possibilities is another,” said Ghany.
“I don’t think that compromising core principles is something to be done on the basis of current trends...let the chips fall where they may and learn the lessons from the elections,” he added.
Political analyst Dr Winford James also shared this view but said that negative repercussions from facing the polls were inevitable.
“She should call the elections when promised...whether she calls them now or whether she calls them at some other point in time, she can’t escape the negative repercussions until she fixes the many wrongs that her Government has done,” he said.
“If she wants to perhaps win back some of the credibility she has lost it might be good for her to call the elections when they are due, as she has promised because she has promised that,” said James.
Political analyst Derek Ramsamooj said while it is the responsibility of any leader to call elections, they (leaders) consider whether it would be beneficial in their political interest to securing victory.
He noted that former prime minister Patrick Manning did not call the local government elections for various political reasons.
Persad-Bissessar, he said, did indicate that local government elections would be called.
“It is clearly evident by the public’s perception that it would be extremely difficult for her to maintain the electoral control of the existing 12 out of 14 electoral districts. It is not in her political interest in the short term to run the political risk of a third election defeat within a period of under one year,” said Ramsamooj.
“It may not be in her interest to call the local government election if the public perception is negative against her administration.
Rowley said if such an option is taken (taking a motion to Parliament retroactively to give life to local government bodies) there will be no support whatsoever from the Opposition benches in Parliament.
“Our position is very simple and straight. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago stood up in the Parliament (in 2011) and in calling the local government election after there was a period of postponement by the prior Government gave the country an assurance on parliamentary record that elections will be held when elections are due,” he said.
“If today the Prime Minister has the boldfacedness and shamelessness to come to the population and disregard the commitment she gave and seeking and excuse to postpone the election, the population will deal brutally with the Government when they get the opportunity to go to the polls,” he added.
He said if the Government postpones local government elections, the Opposition would demand that general elections be placed on the table.