“Songshine was a kind of miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of making it happen.” — Gillian Moor
Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar, whose leadership style was constantly attacked by his political rivals on the campaign trail, emerged victorious in the party’s internal elections yesterday. Declaring he is now the “unambiguous” leader of the COP, Ramadhar edged out his main opponent, the party’s chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan by 444 votes.
“We are no longer unsure about who is the leader of the COP.” he said. “A very small but loud group has been saying get your act together. Well, tonight, I got my act together.” In his victory speech at Gaston Courts, Chaguanas, Ramadhar said his recently deceased father always told him, ‘Once your heart is pure and your ambition clean you will attain victory.’
Of the 2, 673 COP members who cast their ballots in the leadership elections, Ramadhar got 1,472 votes. Seepersad-Bachan got 1,028 votes, while deputy political leader Dr Lincoln Douglas got 162. Rufus Foster, who pulled out of the race at the last minute and announced he was backing Seepersad-Bachan, got four votes.
Just after 6 pm, results coming in from polling stations showed that Ramadhar was in the lead. At 6.25 pm, he made his way into Gaston Courts, where the results were being announced, followed by a group of cheering supporters. Five minutes later, he gave his victory speech to a small crowd of COP members. Despite the rain, it was an evening bright with hope for the country, he said. Ramadhar wasted little time in declaring that the party’s next priority is preparing for the 2015 general election.
“In less than a year, we shall face a general election,” he said Making it clear whose side the COP was on, he said the PNM was not an option because leader Dr Keith Rowley intended to bring back all that the party stood against. “The way forward is very clear and simple but difficult. The COP must retain its position in the Partnership with a strong, independent voice.” Ramadhar said he planned to speak with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar later in the night.
COP vice-chairman Nicole Dyer-Griffith said the party’s first priority is to elect a new national executive whose members will support the leader as he goes forward. Ramadhar hugged Seepersad-Bachan and Douglas when they arrived at Gaston Courts at around 7.30 pm and said he has opened his heart and hands to all, even those outside the COP, to build the kind of nation all dream of. Of the 18,000 eligible voters in the COP, only 2,673 came out to vote and Ramadhar expressed disappointment at that.
In response to questions from the media, he said the wounds inflicted during the campaign were not severe and the healing process will not be so hard. He took the attacks by candidates on his leadership style in good stead, saying he has always been a warrior.
He said a lot of COP members did not come out to vote because they said they were depressed over the nature of the fight between the candidates. Also, polling stations were 15 to 20 miles apart and people had to go far to vote. Ramadhar said the next COP elections will be electronic. Seepersad-Bachan told supporters this was not the end for her but the beginning. She said she remained committed to the core principles of the COP adding that the low voter turnout was of deep concern to her.
“We fought a good fight and kept our campaign clean.” she said Asked how she felt in her failed mission to be elected the new COP leader, she replied: “The members have spoken.” Douglas, in conceding defeat, said he was sad he had lost but was never one to be daunted. He said he remained committed to the party.