In response to Dr Joey’s Jagan’s missive on ‘big tent politics’ in Trinidad and his appeal for it in Guyana among the opposition parties (‘Trinidad’s big tent politics should be instructive to the opposition in Guyana’ SN, April 28), I am not endorsing or opposing it, but just noting some differences as it applies to Guyana and Trinidad.
I am not certain that big tent politics can work in Guyana given the big egos of and inherent conflicts among the leaders of the multitude of mini-parties in Guyana. And it is not certain as yet whether the big tent politics in Trinidad will work in defeating the incumbent PNM, and even if it succeeds, whether the coalition will hold together to govern the country. There was a lot of tit for tat, and the coalition is still unstable and without full support from the supporters of the various outfits. In fact, up to yesterday [Wednesday], the deputy leader of the COP expressed his opposition to the arrangement. Also, supporters of the Indian opposition UNC are vocally opposing the UNC giving up two of its “safe” seats to other parties – one to the COP and another to the MSJ. Many UNC supporters say they will not vote because of the UNC leadership needlessly conceding these two seats in order to hold the coalition together. In the end, I think the Indians will vote for the coalition partners, but they are certainly not pleased.
Also, the electoral system in the two countries is quite different, with Guyana having proportional representation and Trinidad the first past the post. In Trinidad, the several parties are contesting the elections under their own names and logos. In Guyana, we already have the many parties contesting under their own names and logos, and when their votes are combined, they still fall way below that of the ruling party. So will they be willing to give up their party for another party?
And while in Trinidad, the parties agreed to Ms Kamla Persad-Bissessar as prime ministerial candidate because her party has the largest following among the electorate, in Guyana it would be nearly impossible for the parties to accept a leader from the largest opposition party as each one wants to lead the opposition. And at any rate, the parties have objected to coming together in Guyana.
In Trinidad, a charming lady, Kamla, as she is popularly called, has been successful in putting together the coalition. Voters feel it is time for a woman prime minister and she also has wide appeal. The former leader of the UNC, Basdeo Panday, is not a thorn in the side of the opposition, and the other parties are willing to work along with her, no longer feeling threatened by a polarizing Panday. There are so many polarizing figures among the Guyana opposition, who will be leader? And if they come together and win, can they govern? In polls conducted in the past, NACTA found Joey a healing figure among the opposition, but the leaders of the other parties are opposed to him. And there is no significant evidence at the moment that government supporters will abandon the PPP/C because they still have faith in President Jagdeo.