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Kamla’s endurance

By Suruj Rambachan

PRELIMINARY though the results were, by Saturday night it was clear the margin of victory of Kamla Persad-Bissessar was overwhelming. Hours after the close of the poll for the post of UNC political leader, social media posts put the former prime minister way ahead.

Yesterday, the UNC stated Persad- Bissessar won 15,477 votes to Roodal Moonilal’s 1,466 and Vasant Bharath’s 1,102.
The margin suggests a clear mandate, despite several national- level election defeats.

Clearly Persad-Bissessar’s most prized political asset — her appeal among the party faithful — endures.

She has successfully bucked a general trend whereby defeated prime ministers are removed by their party.

But the final tally should not mask legitimate issues that have been raised in terms of the party’s internal elections machinery. If the campaign had the air of a circus, this was certainly the case in relation to some elements of the proceedings on polling day. Questions have been raised about the list of voters, about relocation of polling margins, and the voters’ ink.

There were reports of “physical sparring” at Parvati Girls’ Hindu College between two men, said to be supporters of Moonilal and Persad-Bissessar’s slates respectively, as well as a bomb scare at Shiva Boys’ Hindu College. It was reminiscent of scenes from VS Naipaul’s classic election book, The Suffrage of Elvira.
The many issues raised have to be examined by the party’s internal elections machinery.

A proper review should take place and recommendations must be drawn up to correct deficiencies. However, given such a vast margin of victory, it is likely that this important exercise will be largely moot.

Certainly, as things stand now, there is no clear or compelling case for invalidation of a result which appears to reflect the democratic will of the party.

The task now for Persad-Bissessar is to push forward the UNC. In the first place, it must function as an effective Opposition in Parliament. With these elections over, it is hoped that the dust will settle and the distraction that is internal party politics will return our attention to national affairs, such as the management of the economy.

Secondly, any rifts which have developed during the campaign must now be put aside. The national interest dictates that the Opposition functions well: there should be no Opposition within the Opposition, as occurred in 2006. Key questions now include: Will Persad-Bissessar re-appoint Bharath to the Senate? Will Moonilal return as Opposition Whip? Indicators suggest that neither will return to these posts, but this does not mean that a meaningful role cannot be played by either within the party. That is the key: the party and, by extension, the system of government, in the broad sense, of our nation. Moonilal remains an MP.

Meanwhile Persad-Bissessar must be relishing the taste of victory especially in the wake of the September 7 general election defeat. She has also recently scored some points through a bizarre incident involving Jack Warner and some questionable correspondence.

But the victory is not for one woman, it’s for a nation and its democratic process which this year has been exercised to the fullest.

Today, another election takes place, on the local government level, attesting to the strength of our belief that the voice of the people is paramount.

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