RADHICA DE SILVA
The UNC has lost its base and can never get back into the government under its current leadership, says the party’s founder Basdeo Panday.
He was speaking after results of the UNC’s internal polls showed only 17,066 people had turned up to vote, out of a pool of 115,000 financial members.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Panday said the political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had killed the party which he formed in 1989 out of the unification of opposition forces
“The UNC is going to die. It is already dead for all intents and purposes,” Panday said. He added, “Any party that cannot bring out its voters in such a high paced campaign means the rank and file have lost interest in the party.”
Asked what could be done to repair the party and increase interest, Panday said the party was “beyond repair.”
However, he said all was not lost.
“ It is a great opportunity for the country to get together and form a united opposition which excludes the whole question of race, a party that unites people instead rather than dividing as the PNM and Kamla did,” he added.
Panday said if a new party is formed, this could bring an end to tribal politics.
“It’s a slow change but any right-thinking person will see what has happened in this election and that is that the Opposition could never take the government if they can’t get the people to come out and vote for them,” he said.
Panday further said that COVID-19 has little to do with the low voter turnout, noting that in the last internal elections, the situation was the same.
Panday said those who went up against Persad-Bissessar had no political future even before they contested.
He said that a new party is the only remedy to take the PNM out of office, noting that the population was clamouring for change.
But political analyst Dr Maukesh Basdeo did not share Panday’s view.
He said it was the pandemic and not voter disenchantment which kept supporters away from the polls.
Responding to the statistics that Persad-Bissessar got 14,873 votes while Bharat got 2,193 votes, Basdeo said, “ 14,000 votes is still a significant amount of votes, given the COVID restrictions. Had that election been held under other conditions, then it would have demonstrated a decline in the interest of the party but the pandemic would have deterred people from coming out.”
He also said that there was enough time before the next election for the party to heal internally.
“The party will face the Local Government Elections before a general election in 2025. The best way to measure the party’s effectiveness is how it holds the Government to account, that means executive accountability via the machinery arm like the legislature. That will test the credibility of the party in the short term period,” Basdeo said.
He noted that in the last general elections, it was clear that smaller parties were decimated, noting that only the UNC and the PNM were strong enough to attract a sizable number of voters