Political analyst Derek Ramsamooj says yesterday's Tobago House of Assembly election was a referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and not the Chief Secretary Orville London. Ramsamooj was a panellist on a post-election panel discussion on television.
He said the moment Persad-Bissessar decided to campaign in support of the Tobago Organisation of the People–the main challenger to the incumbent People's National Movement–she shifted the election focus from the 12-year leadership of London to her leadership of the central Government.
Ramsamooj said the TOP, led by Ashworth Jack, failed to address London's leadership in the campaign and was expected to suffer from many mistakes the TOP made during the campaign. And Tobago researcher and political activist Dr Vanus James, another panellist, said the issue of the Prime Minister having sniffer dogs in a church on the island was not seen in a favourable light by the Tobago populace.
Shortly before 9 pm yesterday a clear trend was evident as the PNM was in the lead in as many as nine of the 12 electoral districts. James said the expected swing of voters from the PNM to the TOP did not take place, and it was clear that the TOP's public-relations campaign "really did not focus effectively enough in positioning Mr Jack as that intellectual that Tobagonians would have been comfortable with."
James said Jack's use of notes during the televised debate among the leaders two weeks ago worked against the TOP. "You know how many people tell me that was a measure that seemed to dog him? So I think he did not stamp himself, stamp the election, with his capacity to lead Tobago," James commented.
Ramsamooj said the TOP had become symbolically irrelevant. He said it used the same campaign used by the People's Partnership in the May 2010 general election campaign "without having substantial knowledge of the electorate which led to the (TOP's) downfall." He said the defeat would mean the end of Jack as leader of the party.
James said Tobago "voted in a consolidated way against the TOP," and the election defeat also meant "the relevance (of the TOP) to the partnership has been greatly diminished." Tobagonians were called on to vote to remove then prime minister Patrick Manning and they did, he said, but the THA election was an entirely different matter.
"Tobagonians do not perceive their national leadership in terms of the Prime Minister in Trinidad. It is the leader of the THA that is the Tobago leader," he stressed.