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Analysts: COP a spent force

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Congress of the People (COP) stands a slim chance of winning if it goes it alone in the upcoming general election. This was the view of three political analysts as the COP gets set to finalise its 2015 general election campaign. In Friday’s Guardian, the COP’s general secretary Clyde Weatherhead admitted that the party had received the names of nominees for 11 constituencies. Weatherhead also confirmed that the COP was seeking to contest more seats than the six it holds.

But two former COP deputy political leaders, Wendy Lee Yuen and Robert Mayers, have expressed concern over the party’s future. Both Lee Yuen and Mayers feel that the nine-year-old COP is now “past history” and “dead” as it prepares to face its third general election. Today, the COP will hold its monthly national council meeting at Operations Centre, Charlieville. 

Basdeo—They’re better as a coalition than alone
Political analyst Maukesh Basdeo said a number of polls conducted on the performance of political parties in the last two years showed that the COP had not created any significant impact nor made any headway. “Based on that, I think the COP’s chances are far greater as a coalition than on its own.” If the COP were to stand alone, Basdeo said, it might muster support from some members who had been urging the party to contest the general election alone rather than as part of a coalition.

“That support might return, but I don’t think it might be substantial enough for them to win a seat. Their chances will be slim if they go it on their own under this first-past-the-post system.” Basdeo said if the COP were to fight alone they might face a situation similar to the one in the 2007 general election, where they captured 148,000 votes, but did not win one seat.

He said if the first-past-the-post system of voting was changed to the runoff provision in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, which is yet to come before the House of Representatives for amendments, things could change. “If the amendments to the runoff provision are approved the COP may end up as a contender, but you have to take into consideration if the COP would be able to reignite the support they once held.”

Asked if the COP’s electoral candidates could contest the election under a UNC ticket, Basdeo said this was possible. Basdeo drew reference to former Movement for Social Justice leader Errol McLeod, who fought and won the Point-a-Pierre seat under the UNC in 2010. Basdeo said the best bet was for each political party to contest under its own identity to avoid confusion among the voting population.

James: COP politically dead 
Political analyst Dr Winford James has described the COP as “politically dead and buried. I cannot see how they are making a difference.” James said, as it stood, the COP could not win any seat, whether it went on its own or stayed with the People’s Partnership. James said no advice to the COP would suffice now, since they had given the impression of being opportunistic.

“They have lost all credibility as a party. I don’t know how powerful their voice has been in some of the major happenings in Government since they took office.” He said the only way the COP could emerge victorious was if their candidates were put up to fight seats in UNC strongholds. “Other than that, they do not have a fighting chance.” James said if the COP fought the election alone or under a coalition banner, they would not capture “one seat.”

In the last few months, James said, the COP had been losing support on many fronts, mainly because of its sucking up to the UNC, being part of the Government’s many blunders, and not living up to the new politics they had promised the population. He said rather than stand alone, the party’s leader was holding on to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s coat tail, which was doing the party more harm than good.

James said the recent tiff between COP chairman Nicole Dyer-Griffith and leader Prakash Ramadhar was likely to intensify because they would have to go to the public with one approach and were already not seeing eye-to-eye. “How they would work that out, we don’t know just yet.” James said if Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan was given the party to lead, things might have progressed rather than digressed in the last few months.

“She is one of the better ones. She seems to be sufficiently independent,” James said.

Ragoonath: They are very weak
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said he did not see the COP as a strong, viable political entity for the general election. Ragoonath said the COP by itself was not strong. “They are very, very, very, very weak.” Ragoonath said as the party was losing ground, the membership was unsure as to where they would go.

“The membership is divided. Some want to stay with the PP, while others want to go their own way. To that extent, a divided house will never stand.” If the COP entered into a relationship with the UNC, Ragoonath said, that would give them a little more stability.

Lee Yuen: No identity of its own
Lee Yuen said the COP had lost focus and direction many moons ago. “They diverted along the course.” From the onset, Lee Yuen said, the party preached about bringing new politics to the people, but had not delivered, which left many disenchanted. Having resigned from the party in 2014, Lee Yuen said, the COP “does not stand a chance of winning a seat at the polls because they are allowing themselves to be subservient and manipulated. They have no identity of their own.”

Lee Yuen said although the party asked her to reconsider her resignation, she had to walk out as they were not practising what they had preached With the COP losing support, Lee Yuen said, she hoped the party would not contest any seat under a UNC ticket because this would be the final nail in its coffin. In a nutshell, Lee Yuen said, the COP was now “past history” and its chances at the polls were “slim pickings. They are going nowhere fast.”

Lee Yuen said in her view, Dyer-Griffith had far more credibility than Ramadhar. She said whereas Winston Dookeran, the COP founder, started off on the right track “he just allowed the COP to fall apart.”

Mayers: COP on a life line
Last year, Mayers wrote to the COP’s general secretary Clyde Weatherhead asking him to expunge his name from the party’s membership list after the COP refused to listen to the wishes of some members to extract itself from the PP. He said the COP would be kept on a “life line” only for the general election.

“They would be kept on enough oxygen so that they could go into the election as something called the People’s Partnership.  But other than that the COP is dead. The COP is is zero. I don’t see them winning any seat.” Mayers said Dookeran too was politically “dead” and had disappointed everybody. He said the party’s membership had dwindled because Ramadhar lacked substance.

Mayers said the COP was no longer a viable political party.

Dyer-Griffith: Party has a great deal of work to do
On Friday, when asked what was her position going forward with the COP and how she viewed the political analysts’ comments, Dyer-Griffith, in a text message, replied, “The COP’s leadership and I do have a significant divergence of views as to the positioning and political placement of the organisation. The party has a great deal of work to do.”

Ramadhar: No alternative for the COP but to continue in the PP
Yesterday, Ramadhar said he disagreed with the political analysts and felt confident that the party could emerge victorious at the polls. “I feel confident the party will get support once people understand that they were given good governance and provided with development in the last five years.” In the next two weeks, Ramadhar said, the COP would begin campaigning.

In the 2010 general election, Ramadhar said, the COP won six of the toughest seats, following which the party’s support base started to dwindle due to “propaganda.” Ramadhar said he recently held discussions with Persad-Bissessar to strengthen the COP in preparation for the upcoming general election. He said the COP was yet to work out an arrangement with the UNC on which seats they should fight.

“Our ambition is to contest more than the six we currently hold. We have agreed that every arm of the PP must work hard in every constituency. There is no alternative for the COP but to continue in the PP. I can’t see the COP partnering with the PNM. As for the ILP, they are a spent force.” Ramadhar said he was willing to work with Dyer-Griffith to take the party forward. “To me, the party is bigger than any individual.” 


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