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ILP—dark horse or dead force?

Jack’s aiming to be the spoiler—analysts
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner

Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner is confident he will hold the trump card to determine who will form the next government in the 2015 general election, but political analysts believe otherwise. In fact, they all believe that the ILP will be a dead force rather than a dark horse on the political landscape when the election bell tolls. 

Warner, speaking to the Sunday Guardian about his party’s political future, said the ILP should not be counted out of the general election race since the party has ground support and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015. He emphatically declared that “no party in this country, none could form the government in this country without the ILP.”

The ILP, he said, would not be contesting all 41 constituencies, but would be sticking to “fighting all the marginal seats and a few others where we believe we stand a very good chance of winning.” Warner, who appeared confident, had previously indicated the ILP would contest 23 seats. Political analysts Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, Dr Winford James and Maukesh Basdeo who weighed in on the ILP’s chances, said the party needed to join forces with another political party to make a difference.

Ragoonath—ILP may split votes or join up
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said at present he did not view the ILP as a force to be reckoned with on the political landscape. He said this position might change as the country drew closer to the 2015 polls. However, Ragoonath affirmed: “At this point in time I am not sure I could say they are a force to be reckoned with.” He said there were many variables that could affect the ILP. He said the party might be able to split the votes or “they could very well be joining with somebody else to make a difference.” 

However, he said, it was more likely that the party would fail to make any impact at all at the polls and, like the COP, would need to join forces. “As of this point in time, I would think the COP is a little bit stronger than the ILP. COP has a lifeline with the UNC. I do not think the ILP has such a lifeline at this point in time,” Ragoonath said.

James—Jack aiming to be a spoiler
Political analyst Dr Winford James, in his analysis of the political developments, contended that historically it has been very difficult for any third party to break the two-party pattern of voting in T&T. The ILP, he said, had a tough fight ahead if it wanted to make a serious impact. “As to the likely success of the ILP or any third party in a general elections, it is going to be very difficult. We do not have any history of any third party. (Apart from) I suppose the TOP in Tobago, we do not have a success story for a third party in T&T,” James contended. 

He said up to this point, Warner had not shared many details on his plans for the ILP or who his candidates were going to be, but he had expressed confidence about the likely success of his party. James cautioned: “Mr Warner would be hoping that his success in Chaguanas West carries over into the elections. That, of course, is a huge mountain he will have to climb.” He contended that the ILP could not win the elections on their own.

If the party were to win, he said: “that would have to be a miracle. If not a miracle, heavy fraud would have to take place for the ILP to win the elections on their own.” James said clearly Warner was not thinking of joining a coalition before the election. “He is aiming to be a spoiler, to go it on his own, win a few seats and bargain with either the PNM or the UNC because they are the major parties and the ones most likely to win the election,” he said. 

The decline of the COP, he said, also made room for Warner and “strengthens his hand, strengthens his optimism that he can in fact win a few seats.” However, that victory at the polls, he said, depended on the politics Warner used and was likely to use after the election date itself. James said that for general elections “people return to their old loyalties,” which made such matters more dynamic. 

Basdeo—Political arrangement needed for ILP survival
Political analyst Maukesh Basdeo made it clear that the ILP could not survive without entering into a political arrangement for the 2015 general election. He said the ILP suffered internal political wranglings similar to those of the COP where executive members opted to leave the party. This, he said, had left the ILP “in a very weak position. The most recent would have been its political leader (Lyndira Oudit) and that says a lot for the party.

“Although Mr Warner is still there I think the ILP has an uphill battle for the 2015 general elections. I think they have support, there is no denying that, but whether they have the support to win any seats, that is another issue,” Basdeo contended. He said when one looked at the polls the ILP was in a position similar to the COP’s, so both parties had an uphill battle. The COP, he said, had an edge over the ILP by being part of the People’s Partnership. 

“The best suggestion I can make right now is finding some sort of political arrangement with one of the two political parties. They have an advantage being in a coalition, that is the advantage (the COP) seems to have over the ILP,” he contended.

Al Rawi—The PNM’s only real opponent is the UNC
PNM PRO Faris Al Rawi said while the party was not dismissing the ILP as a threat, it remained focused on defeating the UNC which it viewed as its only opponent in the 2015 general election.  Al Rawi said the PNM remained the oldest and the “most structured political party in T&T” and the ILP was a young party. However, he contended, the PNM was treating the ILP as it did other political parties “as a potential representative of some of the people of T&T and we therefore do not dismiss it or any other party out of hand.”

Having said that, Al Rawi maintained: “Currently only the UNC stands as a real opponent to the PNM and we are focusing our endeavours on removing the UNC from office.” Al Rawi, while not completely ruling out the possibility of forming an alliance with the ILP should the party capture any seats in the elections, said any and all such decisions would be taken to its membership.

“As and when it becomes a real issue it is the general council and people of the PNM who make such a decision and I certainly as the PRO of the PNM am not in any position to speak to that matter,” Al Rawi said. Attempts to reach UNC campaign leader Rodney Charles proved futile as calls and text messages to his cellphone went unanswered. UNC executives and COP executives are adamant that the ILP would not be welcomed into the coalition unless Warner proved himself trustworthy. 

Warner—the power broker

The ILP leader is confident that he can be a power broker in the 2015 general election since he expects to hold the pendulum to shift power either to the People’s Partnership or the People’s National Movement. A power broker is defined as a person “who deliberately affects the distribution of political or economic power by exerting influence or by intrigue.” It appears that Warner stands ready to assume this role in the 2015 polls as he confidently declared, in a Sunday Guardian interview, that “we (the ILP) have now legitimised our position as the third force.

“The fact is we are the only third force. I said in 2013 after the local government elections when we got 102,000 votes and you see now before your very eyes that the COP has disintegrated and collapsed,” he said. He said the party remained strong and had not suffered any real adverse impact from the departure of former leader Lyndira Oudit. “The only person left the ILP of substance is Anna Deonarine (former deputy leader) and even that has not caused or led to the demise of the ILP,” he added. 

He said hundreds of people had joined the party to date and “in the fullness of time we shall announce our candidates, half of whom have been screened already and time will tell.” Warner said so far the ILP had screened candidates for 12 constituencies. He said the candidates had been asked to start working and “declare themselves shadow MPs for the time being and we have not ratified their disclosure for obvious reasons.”

Warner is playing his cards close to his chest about whom he would most likely join forces with should he obtain sufficient seats to shift the balance of power. “I would consider all parties that share our ideals, our goals, our objectives. But it is premature for us to say at this stage what we shall be doing and therefore I will have to leave it at that for the time being,” Warner said. PNM PRO Faris Al Rawi said Warner was free to consider himself as a power broker, but the PNM was focused on the PNM. 

Political analyst Dr Winford James said Warner’s view of himself as a power broker was an “important and interesting statement.” However, he said, the ILP leader had to tell the nation how many seats he needed to win in order to be a power broker. “Clearly not everyone will have the same level of optimism as Mr Warner on the likelihood of his victory. Politicians will always have to talk with confidence, but the idea of him being a power broker is not a trivial matter so that we should keep that statement in mind as events unfold,” James said.


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