Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Commentary: A Chaguanas dilemma

The result of the local government election has created a bit of a dilemma for the Borough of Chaguanas with the People's National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC) each getting three seats and the new Independent Liberal Party (ILP) getting the other two.

But it's not over yet. 

The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is tallying the votes that will determine how the seats of aldermen would be allocated. What seems clear is that no matter how it turns out no party would have a clear majority to elect a mayor and deputy mayor to get to work.

If, for example, the UNC gets two aldermen it would have five seats. The same happens if the PNM gets two. And if the two go to the ILP it still won't solve the problem.

It could end up being 5, 4, 3 for either the UNC or PNM or if the ILP gets the two we could have a three-way tie at four each. Even with a 5, 4, 3 it's not possible to go ahead without some kind of deal.

Jack Warner could become the kingmaker and offer his seats to whoever gives him what he wants. But then none of the two parties might want to do a deal with Jack and the ILP. If that happens, the question that arises is whether the PNM and UNC will do a deal.

Historically, the PNM has never done that. The former PNM leader, Patrick Manning, had a famous line of winning alone and losing alone and chose to go into opposition in 1995 rather to try to form a coalition. That presented an opportunity for Basdeo Panday to form a coalition with his political arch-rival, A.N.R. Robinson, and get into government.

But a private deal is something different. We know what happened when Jack wanted to boot out Mayor Suruj Rambachan. He went to Manning and Colm Imbert and got the two PNM councillors to team up with the UNC to overthrow Rambachan. So there is precedent for dealmaking between Jack and the PNM.

Still, what is happening in Chaguanas now presents a real headache. Each of the three parties campaigned against one another and doing a deal now would make them look hypocritical. But by not doing some kind of deal each could be accused of not caring about the people's business and that is also bad for politics.

The People's Partnership is a coalition and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has always embraced everyone. It is that kind of politics that propelled her into office as the leader of the PP. 

But the divorce from Jack was less than cordial and the campaign that just ended drew some clear battles lines that she would likely not cross.

The PP labelled the ILP as a party courting criminals and while Jack might be willing to talk with the PP, Kamla's political smarts would reject that idea entirely. 

It would be a good strategy on her part to leave it to Jack to cut a deal with the PNM and that would prove the point that the two are a team.

Jack already signalled that he might be going there when he announced his intention to meet with Ramesh Maharaj and rebuild by the RAMJACK team. Ramesh is now connected to the PNM through the Round Table and he has appeared on PNM platforms with Keith Rowley.
Would Ramesh be the deal maker? He almost did it in 2000 when he and his friends Trevor Sudama and Ralph Maraj made a deal to oust Panday and install Manning as PM.  

So if nobody wants to make a deal what happens to Chaguanas? No mayor, no council. And that means the work on behalf of the people would be at a standstill.

And the ones who would become the victims would be the people of Chaguanas who, having elected councillors and aldermen, would have no representation until somebody makes a move to settle the problem.

Each of the three parties would have to think carefully about the next move. And whatever they do, they must save face and also demonstrate that they care about the people of Chaguanas. 

So what's next? We leave that for the politicians. Perhaps they would have to out some names in a hat and do it that way. There is precedent for that and if that is how it goes then I suppose everyone would save face.

Jai Parasram - 22 October 2013

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai