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The odds are against the PP

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

As the election campaign begins to take centre stage, the odds are against the People’s Partnership government being returned to office whenever the elections are called sometime between the present and September 2015. And it seems that in particular, Attorney General Ramlogan is making too much of the September deadline; it is a basic rule that when politicians say run, that is the time not to move a muscle.

The decline in the overwhelming support for the coalition PP (Kamlamania) in 2010 has been precipitous. Why? The ruling People’s Partnership which engaged the attention, enthusiasm and gave hope to the national electorate in 2010 has long since dissolved into being the United National Congress. Internecine conflict and the failure to cement the coalition into a solid force have done the party what seems at this time to be irreparable damage. 

Contributing to the slide has been the inability of the government to explain away or account for in an acceptable manner the several incidents of alleged corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars. The denials and explanations, where they have been attempted, have simply not satisfied those outside of the core support base of the UNC.  

As a party that boasted that it had the solution to crime, that has not been demonstrated. Notwithstanding minimal and inconsistent declines in aspects of crime, the fact is that entrenched criminality has not been shaken. The early talk about transforming the economy and creating new growth poles have not been realised and every fall in the prices of oil and gas continues, as ever, to set off panic in the Ministry of Finance and in other parts of the economy.  

The governance practices of the PP—that is, how it conducts government, interacts with the population and allows for meaningful participation and its public relations propaganda based on Anancy trickery and double-speak—have disenchanted rather than impressed. 

But the most significant indicators of how the PP has lost ground, and this based on hard data impermeable to distortion, are the thrashings received by the PP in four elections approximately midway through its five-year term.  Various parts of the electorate had their say on the performance of the PP and government, and the results reflect the electoral slide away from the coalition government.  

The facts are, the PP lost two by-elections, both constituencies held by the party before the elections, one of the two in hardcore UNC territory.  In the local government polls contested all over Trinidad, the party/government, led in all the campaigns by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, lost five of the 11 corporations it held, scoring very narrow victories in two heartland corporations, Chaguanas and Siparia. 

At the same time, the opposition People’s National Movement surged ahead, winning eight corporations five more than the three it held before the elections.

The defeat of the PP in the Tobago House of Assembly elections was even more devastating. The Tobago Organisation of the People (the Tobago party in the PP) lost the four seats it held, the PNM swamping the TOP/PP combined to win all 12 seats in those elections.

Sure, the constituencies in a general election are configured differently, and control of the government is at stake along with a few hundred billion dollars and political and cultural pride to make the contest far more enticing for party supporters. 

In addition, it is not certain what the circumstances of 2015 will be like compared to 2012, when the ruling party was taken apart in the four elections. All those qualifications notwithstanding, four election defeats are the surest indicators that tell of the dramatic fall-away in support for the Kamla Persad-Bissessar regime. 

Fragmentation of the PP began shearing away two years after the 2010 election victory. The Movement for Social Justice, the labour element of the coalition, left, claiming the PP had lost its way, had not stuck to its pre-election agenda and was practising a measure of ethnic politics in its appointments and award of contracts. 

The National Joint Action Committee continues to bring little to the alliance. The TOP is facing its own internal fragmentation; even the two Tobago MPs in the House seem on the verge of leaving the party that placed them in the Parliament.

The major coalition partner, the Congress of the People, has failed its supporters and the nation, as it has not been able to act as the conscience of the UNC-majority-led and controlled government. More than not being able to instigate “new politics” the COP has been kicked around. It would take a major transformation for the COP to be able to regroup and once again attract the support which gave the party six seats (one of which was a UNC seat—St Augustine) in 2010.  

The deception engaged in by the UNC, with the assistance with what is left of the COP, to pass the runoff legislation in the Parliament is a sure indication that the coalition is aware that it has to do something dramatic to hold off the tide against it in the coming polls.

• To be continued


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