May 25, 2010 by Post Team
Trinidad Guardian:The roads are paved, water is flowing in pipes, tassa drums and rhythm sections are turning up the volume and the political temperature is rising in Trinidad and Tobago. All this can mean only one thing: election fever.
After Prime Minister Patrick Manning, surprisingly called for early elections on 08 April, kept the nation on edge for eight days – for reasons known only to himself, and if the naughty language is created, the person usually known as a woman seer its “- before announcing that general elections would be held on May 24.
Although many observers have been able to discern a significant strategic advantage in delaying the announcement of the date, the vaunted machinery of the holder of the People’s National Movement has already deployed in the action, detection and selection of candidates to contest Trinidad and Tobago 41 constituencies, and blows the election campaign with the sound and fury.
Mr. Manning have launched a crusade for personal vindication with liberal references to the Bible, and in telling his devotees that he is the most “maligned” the prime minister has had, he comes dangerously close to comparing himself to the martyrs pursued old times.
However, in recognition of how the country feels about it, Mr. Manning did not consider what could be the cause of such strong feelings. In fact, the Trinidad Guardian editorial of April 15 suggests that “engaging in some deep introspection during which he should ask why your leadership style and management of the country and generate negative feelings among many people.” And in the case of the prime minister is incapable of understanding the reality of his position, the publisher offers assistance in the list other possible reasons for the unpopularity of Mr. Manning: he is “disconnected” and authoritarian neglected human development and physical urban and rural poor, too many citizens lack basic needs, especially water, he has been unable to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and gas, which has squandered the abundant financial resources, has allowed mismanagement and corruption, including the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, and has refrained from holding local government elections in four years. Others have also accused Manning and his government of mismanagement and failure to curb rampant crime.
What Mr Manning has certainly done is focus attention squarely on his leadership as Prime Minister in the last nine years and, perhaps most significantly, providing the opportunity for the unification of parts of the twin-island republic of fractious opposition.
On the night of Saturday, an opposition coalition was announced and a formal agreement was signed on Wednesday night. The United National Congress, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the People’s Congress, led by Winston Dookeran, Tobago People’s Organization, headed by Jack Ashworth, the National Joint Action Committee, a pioneer in the Black Power movement 1970 led by veteran activist Makandal Daag and the Movement for Social Justice, which includes prominent trade unionists under the chairmanship of former president of the powerful Workers’ Trade Union Reservoir, Errol McLeod, have agreed to participate in elections under the direction of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar. They are being presented in a common platform, with a joint manifesto, and the express intention of removing Mr. Manning and the PNM from office.
As expected, Mr. Manning and PNM are already attacking the alliance, noting that coalition governments have a dismal record of failure in Trinidad and Tobago, reminding the country of corruption under the government of the 1995-2001 UNC and even taking personal shooting of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar Dookeran, Mr. McLeod and Mr.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar in turn indicated that “a common denominator in all coalitions” is no longer present. She did not name, but she was, of course, referring to the figure of division and manipulation of Basdeo Panday, who has finally read the writing on the wall and is not the same as offered for re-election. In addition, his daughter Mikela and Subhas brother and other loyal, Ramesh Maharaj and Kelvin Ramnath, are sure to be selected in the UNC line-up, as Mrs. Persad-Bissessar strives to present a new UNC to the electorate.
However, as The Guardian editorial of April 18 signals, the coalition “has much work to do to convince the public that it is a viable political alternative as a unified opposition force.” Moreover, the editorial argues that the coalition can not “rely on the results of the 2007 elections as any guide to its future prospects either. While the statistics of that election, which received 66 percent the number voters, suggesting that the UNC (29.7 percent of the vote) and CP (22.6 percent) two years ago would have been a potent force in combination against PNM (45.8 percent), that kind of arithmetic is purely hypothetical. ”
In other words, despite popular perceptions of the fallibility of Mr. Manning and the rhetoric of hope and change of the opposition alliance, the responsibility lies with the coalition-led UNC to present their leader as a credible alternative to Mr. Manning, with a manifesto clearly defined for better governance, transparency and accountability, and sustainable socio-economic development more equitable. And it remains to be seen whether the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago look beyond race and tribe, and vote on issues. Otherwise, do the electoral arithmetic may well return to past patterns, ie calculating the deciding vote in marginal seats.
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