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Panday on St Joseph by-election: People back in two racial blocs
A hopeless jumping from here to there, a crying out for a change that will not come. That was how former prime minister and United National Congress (UNC) founder Basdeo Panday summed up the voting patterns in the country after Monday’s St Joseph by-election. He said the people, looking for comfort, had moved back into two racial blocs. Panday, one of the panellists on CNC 3 television, appeared totally disillusioned with the political system.
The programme was moderated by Dr Hamid Ghany, deputy managing director and managing editor of the Guardian Media Ltd and also comprised Sunity Maharaj, director of Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies; Mukesh Basdeo, lecturer from the Political Science Department of the University of the West Indies and Christine Sahadeo, who also lectures at the UWI. “People are voting for neither party nor candidate, they are looking for hope, crying out for change,” he said.
Referring to Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his leadership of the People’s National Movement (PNM), Panday said: “It has nothing to do with new leadership or new management. It’s a hopeless jumping from here to there and no change will come.”
On the victory of PNM candidate Terrence Deyalsingh, Panday, who has spent 42 years in politics, asked: “What difference does it make? That’s the real question. What difference will it make in the improvement of the quality of life for people of T&T or the people of St Joseph?” Panday said Deyalsingh would now be in Opposition and asked whether the Government would give him the resources. He asked whether Deyalsingh would continue what the PNM has been doing in its constituencies.
“It (the election results) doesn’t change the people’s lives,” he said. Saying constitutional reform was dead, Panday added: “People are disenchanted with the political system. I don’t think it attracts the youth. “The present Constitution caters for two parties. The population has been put into two racial boxes. “Under the present Constitution, there is no room for the widest cross-section of the population to participate in the electoral process.”
Commenting on a vacuum usually filled by a third political force and Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal (ILP) party’s loss of momentum, he said: “Nobody will absorb the vacuum.” Panday said it appeared that as the election progressed, the ILP ads got smaller and smaller, an indication of the financier’s loss of hope. “I have a feeling he’s (Warner) going to try and get back into the Partnership.”
Panday, commenting on the splitting of the votes, also said that gave “the other party” the edge. “That seems to be the trend. Always, historically, once there’s a split in one party, the other emerges on top.” Defining splitting, he said: “When one speaks of splitting the votes, you are speaking of splitting the PP votes.” He said there were those who were equating the People’s Partnership with the UNC. “The UNC votes probably didn’t split at all,” he said.
Asked if he was the one who brought Warner into politics, he said his philosophy was that everybody was good until proven bad but in politics you have to assume everybody is bad until proven good. Basdeo described the results as “a strategic win for the UNC.” The panellists agreed it was a tight race in the marginal seat, with the Elections and Boundaries Commission preliminary figures stating that PNM got 6,356 votes, the UNC, 5,577 and the ILP 1,976.
Basdeo said the UNC successfully removed the obstacle that was in its way for the last few months. “The UNC has been able to overcome the third party force,” he said. Maharaj questioned what change the ILP brought and said it remained an interim party. She asked whether people voted for the PNM or against the Government. She questioned whether some of the wind that was under the sails of the ILP had shifted to the PNM.
Sahadeo, a former PNM government minister, said she did not believe people split votes. “I do not believe it was split votes, it was an educated population looking more at the candidate,” she added.
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