parties face poll challenges
without revelation of the date, this is set to be one of
the countdown weekends to the next general election.
Addressing his party in Laventille last week, Prime Minister
Patrick Manning appeared to confirm the election will be
held in 2007.
Constitution watchers have, however, held out the possibility
of a date in early 2008.
Campaign planners must now be counting the weekends before
the absorption in the seasonal excitement of Christmas,
and an early Carnival.
Elections in the first two weeks of December are not unknown
in T&T. By the time Mr Manning gets around to saying
when, the announcement will deliver bounce to the campaigns
but hardly produce much dramatic surprise.
Meanwhile, as the ruling party has been publicly taking
part in preparatory exercises, it could run the risk of
the political equivalent of overtraining for
the big event.
While waiting to see the whites of his enemies eyes,
so to speak, Mr Manning may well create occasion for an
unintentional stumble on his part.
Still, his team remains blessed with the advantages of incumbency.
Image of disarray
Assets of the PNM include not just the levers of State power
and access to a bounteous treasury, but also the image of
disarray that has dogged the opposition.
Other traditional PNM assets include its own image of party
unity and discipline.
The validity of this image is being tested now that, to
an unusual degree, the candidate selection exercises are
It appears that at least half of the PNM candidates who
had won parliamentary seats in October 2002 will not be
contesting five years later.
Neither the voting public nor, it appears, party activists
can have been expecting this. As one might-have-been re-election
candidate after another walks the plank, some unpredictable
effects may be realised.
In San Fernando West, constituents, including former Mayor
Ian Atherly, have voiced unhappiness with the findings of
an internal PNM poll, which apparently persuaded incumbent
Diane Seukeran against running again.
Constituents demonstrated in the streets against the poll
findings that may have depicted the MP and former business
leader as newly unpopular in her city.
Mr Atherly even declared his readiness for war
over the poll results. In mid-2006, he had been displaced
as San Fernando mayor not by the judgment of his city's
burghers, but by central casting in Balisier House, Port
About the poll results that now trigger removal of Ms Seukeran,
Mr Atherly, her 2002 campaign manager, pointedly said: It
looks so familiar to me.
San Fernando resistance may thus encourage local sentiment
in other areas where suspicion of political manipulation
in distant, high quarters could provoke resentment.
Further election-date delays could only give more time and
scope for such unwelcome eruptions.
In Woodford Square today, the Congress of the People will
be encouraged to deliver a make-or-break showing of its
Latest UWI/ANSA McAL poll results will have heartened the
COP's hopes of displacing the UNC/ Alliance as the main
opposition force, and even of sustaining a potent challenge
to the PNM.
The UNC/Alliance has taken note of this eye-catching emergence
of the COP which, under former UNC leader Winston Dookeran,
had one year ago formally declared its independence of the
UNC/Alliance advertisements yesterday claimed all the CoP
will achieve is to split the vote in constituencies
where small numbers will make the difference in giving the
seat to the PNM.
With much cocoa in the sun, the UNC/Alliance will be looking
for rain today.
As the countdown continues, however, challenges abound for
all the parties.