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Political intrigue in Chag West

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chaguanas West 2013: street theatre or the opening scene of an unfolding political drama with much wider implications for T&T? Do recent events merely depict a contestation of wills between a disgruntled individual and a desperate regime on the defensive? Are they indicative of a more profound, tectonic shift towards the supremacy of constituency over party, the ascendancy of voter sovereignty over party diktat? Should others of the political class, perhaps currently gloating on-lookers, find comfort in the emerging scenario? What conclusions should we draw if party is defeated? Could Chaguanas West be replicated elsewhere? These are a few of the questions prompted by what we are witnessing in the run-up to July 29. 


There have been defections in the past, resulting in independent action by disaffected party members who felt aggrieved. But success was few and far between and not sustained. Sooner than later, constituencies fell into line, returning to the post-1956 modality of party hegemony; the crapaud analogy reigned. What makes the current initiative different? In the first instance, there is coincidence of interests—if not agendas—between the affected party hack and a significant proportion of the population as reflected in general dissatisfaction over the performance of the current Government. The party, as dominant influence in the People’s Partnership Government, finds itself battling to maintain credibility at the wider national level while trying to manage constituency disaffection over candidate selection. 


Both these issues are merging and feeding off each other, draining political energy and distracting focus. Secondly, the nature of the response and the massive challenge mounted at constituency level are an entirely new experience. It seems richly resourced and is hugely impressive in terms of planning, organisation, timing and cleverly nuanced politics. In a stroke of political genius, constituents are assured that saying “No” to party is not a fatal condition denying access to the levers of government and power, for the “plan” is to align with the Partnership against the common enemy. The mantra is: there is no political risk to registering your protest! What happens on July 29 should be of immense interest to the wider population. Abstracting from the attributes or otherwise of the dissident former UNC chairman, the critical issue is whether constituents should assert the right to be represented by their candidate of choice or submit to whomsoever the party foists upon them. Chaguanas West is poised to provide an answer which may resonate, uncomfortably for many, throughout T&T. Should party be defeated, would there be implications for Laventille or Oropouche or other “safe” constituencies, if not immediately, in the foreseeable future? These are interesting times.


Winston R Rudder
Petit Valley


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