New prospects for small parties

By Raffique Shah
July 27, 2020

Raffique ShahIt would be remiss of me if, having chosen to comment on the 2020 general election, I ignored the many small parties and independent candidates that have entered the race. The Elections and Boundaries Commission said 150 candidates from 19 parties are set to do battle in 41 constituencies on August 10. Between the PNM and the UNC, they have fielded 80 candidates (41 and 39 respectively), while the new Progressive Empowerment Party has 28 candidates. This means that the other 16 parties and independents will have 42 starters when the polls open.

From all appearances, the election will be a two-party race. The electorate must, however, take notice of the 70 persons who are brave enough to have registered as candidates, running against immense odds, and but for a few of them who have public profiles, they will win neither fame nor fortune from this exercise. They are not mad, at least they don’t come across that way. Many of them are intelligent, some very bright, and all of them claim to love their country more than self.

Yet, the electorate will ignore them. However much people may complain about poor representation from governments that come from the PNM or the UNC, they will vote for candidates from the mainstream parties who may be of poor quality by comparison. For them, party loyalty takes precedence over other considerations.

There are some interesting stories behind many of these “third forces” and independents that might shed light on their reasons for running against the odds. History shows that parties that were once constituent parts of coalition arrangements with opposition forces that at some point formed the government, refuse to die or to rejoin their former partners. They persist at the polls convinced that they will one day rise and recapture their glory, maybe even power. The Congress of the People is one such example. It was born out of disenchantment with Basdeo Panday’s leadership style back in the early 2000s when the UNC was in opposition.

Winston Dookeran, who had been selected by Panday to succeed him as leader, suffered the humiliation all such heirs-apparent encounter. So he left the UNC and launched the CoP, which comprised some frontline UNC politicians (Ganga Singh, Manohar Ramsaran, Gillian Lucky) and what could be described as “new blood”, persons who had broad appeal outside the traditional UNC strongholds (Anand Ramlogan, Gary Griffith, Joe Pires, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Prakash Ramadhar).

In a bruising battle that was reminiscent of the general election of 1981, when Karl Hudson-Phillips had taken the recently-formed Organsation for National Reconstruction to unexpected heights, the COP in 2007 amassed 148,000 votes (22.6 percent of votes cast) to the UNC’s 194,000 (29.7 percent) but failed to win a seat. The PNM under Patrick Manning got 299,813 votes (45.85 percent) and secured a comfortable 26 seats to the UNC’s 15. It was the closest a third party came to winning or displacing the main party in opposition.

In 1981, Hudson-Phillips’s ONR gained 91,704 votes (22 percent of votes cast) but did not win “a damn seat”, as new PNM leader George Chambers had accurately predicted. Then, the PNM won the election with 218,557 votes (53 percent) and 24 of 36 seats, while Panday’s ULF scored a mere 62,281 (15 percent), but won 10 seats. Of note in the 1981 election, too, were that 12 parties fielded candidates, and six scored significant votes- the others being Ray Robinson’s DAC (15,390, two seats in Tobago), NJAC (13,710) and Lloyd Best’s Tapia (9,401).

In both cases cited above, the “third forces” proved to be critical to the politics that followed. By 1986, the ONR had teamed up with the ULF, Tapia and the DAC to form the NAR which swept the polls in 1986, almost obliterating the PNM (33-3). In the second instance, the coalition comprising the UNC, COP, MSJ and NJAC, spawned the People’s Partnership. With Persad-Bissessar as its leader, the PP went on to convincingly win the 2010 election 29-12, polling 60 percent of votes cast, against the PNM’s 40 percent.

This time around, a record 19 parties are in the fray, and while many of them are one-man-shows, there are signs that something better may come out of the election. With Ms Seepersad-Bachan as its political leader, the COP is struggling to attract support. It has fielded only four candidates, but it has formed an accommodation of sorts with other small parties whereby they won’t run against each other. In fact, there are several similar arrangements involving the small parties and independents.

In Tobago, Watson Duke’s PDP, which holds two seats in the Tobago House of Assembly, is boasting that they will wrestle both seats on the island from the PNM. That is a tall order that is unlikely to materialise. The new Progressive Empowerment Party led by the garrulous Phillip Edward Alexander, believes that by sheer numbers of seats contested (28), his is the dominant “third force”. I submit that the number of votes polled will decide that issue.

David Abdulah’s MSJ, which has nominated five candidates, impresses many people as being a stable organisation. It is also seen as a radical, left-wing party, which, in my view, is more perception than reality. It was part of the Partnership that swept every election in 2010 and immediately afterwards.

Given these precedents, this election seems set to offer new prospects to the small parties. Some of them may well coalesce into a force to reckon with in its aftermath.

11 thoughts on “New prospects for small parties”

  1. David Abdullah never apologized to african trinidadians for co-signing The PP and Kamla. He is perfect example of one of those “mixed” caribbeans (No indian ancestry) who try to ‘saddle the fence’ on issues afecting african people, but wants their VOTE though! He refused to aid the no confidence motion against kamla.!
    Abdullah’s Dirty Underpants

  2. The UNC/Indian community political rollout of the “acceptable” “mixed” people, with african ancestry , but loyal to the indian community (more economic & social benefits). Thes “acceptable mixed” people, because of their phenotype, NEVER experienced the type of anti-african, anti-black racism from the indian community, so it’s not ‘their’ problem. African people should only trust (politically), persons of strong character, who are stuck in their boat…not those who CAN hop on whichever boat is most luxurious!

    Walker walks the talk in Diego Martin West

    Dougla dilemma;id=2849

  3. Watch a next one….
    David Nakhid is so caring of african people, in particular downtrodden communities…so he decided to open a football school in LEBANON! He acknowledges and condemns corruption in public office as well as Satnarayan MaharaJ’s racism…then joins Kamla and the UNC. This man boasts about standing up against white racist political party all the way in South Africa (why didn’t he open his school there??) but he joins a racist brahman-ist (Hindu) political party in HIS country!

    Of football and beauty pageants; Nakhid on Zozibini, Wendy and Sat Maharaj (Wired868)

    David Nakhid | UNC: Tunapuna | Unc |

    Is David Nakhid African self-identified?

    1. My friend Inconvenient, bit of advice, you seem to spend a lot of time surfing the internet and reading obscure articles which are obviously firing your hatred for Indo-Trinidadians.
      You are wasting away your life. Get a hobby, some friends, play an instrument or grow something.

      Life is too short and wonderful and to be frittered away in bitterness and bigotry.

      It is 5:38 am and I am going to water the plants in my vegetable garden. Growing vegetables is the easiest way to keep in touch with God’s creation and yourself.

      Best Wishes

      1. Tariqandalus my friend,
        Are you on planet earth with the pandemic as well?
        Are you also spending alot of time reading my responses and typing your own?
        Life is too short to be ignorant of the meaning of racism and hatred. “obscure articles” ? 🙂 is that your rebuttal of history you don’t want to hear?
        Speaking out against Injustice is hatred, bitterness, bigotry to the morally bankrupt! My friend, take the advice from the indian writers that i reference:
        Anti-Black Racism Protests Should Prompt Introspection for South Asians – New Canadian Media

        “Indian racism towards Black people is almost worse than white peoples’ racism” An Interview with Arundhati Roy · Dalit Camera

        My friend….are these ethnic indian writers bigoted, bitter and hateful of their ethnic group as well? OR are they criticizing the same injustice & racism?

        Anti-Blackness corrodes South Asian communities

      2. Tariqandalus, My Friend…i understand your forked, silver tongue

        “Long ago they have synthesized a reasoning that allows them to redefine racist as people whose views they do not like, whose views exposes target the Achilles heel of their psychology and psyche, whose actions are designed to free the minds they spent 23 years enslaving.”

  4. There are two political wills in T&T…African and Indian…everything else (or party) is an illusion. The PNM has always been supported and lead by africans, but the indian political party has always sullied it’s name with racism and violent incitement, with cyclical re-branding and repackaging. All the extra parties, are AFRICAN VOTE -TRAPS, designed to capture ignorant, uninformed africans. Unlike the indian community with strong, educational, social and religious INDIAN institutions, that capture and nurture young indian minds systematically, into radical, narrow minded, racist political stubbornness…Africans do not have a community at all. Drpressed communities are communities of financial starvation, not african-ness! There are NO reputable, mass attended African schools, social or religious institutions. What you have are segmented christian, islamic and other institutions, that are dominated by africans genetically, but not psychologically or spiritually. There is no loyalty or commitment on african-ness…And it has ALWAYS shown! Do not confuse a RATIONAL fear of indian racism, with loyalty to the (african) group, it is an instictive SELF-PRESERVATIONIST mindset. Indian racism affects all africans, including those africans who put them in office..if they could backstab jack warner…! Every time indian led parties or indian coalition parties get into office, it is because of the greedy/selfish or uninformed, trusting africans. However, the masses of indian voters never voted for african leadership.

    Kamla’s State Of Emergency (Ian Alleyne Reports) YouTube

    Rejecting the State of Emergency

  5. Inconvenient Truth
    You are consumed with anger and hatred. This condition is not good for your health.
    You seek out articles which present one point of view which conveniently fit your biased theories and hypotheses.
    There are numerous articles from a variety of sources which present opposing and credible points of view.
    It is not healthy to be obsessively preoccupied with validating your prejudices with multiple one-sided sources of information.
    Although there is some degree of legitimacy in some of your arguments, you should avoid eroding your credibility with a multitude of name-calling, generalizations, biased opinions, and angry outbursts.
    Any therapist on this blog will readily recognize your psychological needs by observing the tenor and quantity of your recurring posts.

    1. 🙂 Tman,
      When did you ever care about balance? Lol. You and Tariqandalus are a joke! The racist code…DEFLECT DEFLECT DEFLECT
      Don’t think i haven’t noticed your weak game. You have never made any valid rebuttal of any of the point that i’ve raised because you are intellectually and morally bankrupt. Your hustle, like Tariqandalus, is to feign moral indignation against phantom racism…just like your parents taught you…Gaslight gaslight gaslight. It eh wokin here doh! You want me to ‘fall in line’ and make arguments compliment your racist, hateful, bigoted, bitter agenda and ego! Eh-eh
      Racism+bigotry=criticizing indian racism…Not so? You child.

      Racism is Every Bit a Part of “Indianness” as Religious Bigotry, Sexism

      Is this guy hateful as well? 🙂 🙂

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