UNC allowing one man, one vote, our parties should follow suit

Dear Editor,

The governing UNC in Trinidad is holding internal elections today to choose its executives to manage the affairs of the party.  The party is allowing a one man one vote system as opposed to a select few choosing the leadership. Parties in Guyana should give consideration to this system so that supporters can have a say in who is going to manage the affairs of their party.

In Trinidad, the latest findings of an ongoing poll being conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association on the outcome of the UNC internal election for control of the executive finds a low turnout. Members are not excited about voting saying their party has failed them in governance although they like the Prime Minister. Only a small fraction of over 60K plan to vote.

There are 16 posts up for grabs.  The leadership post is not due until next January. Three slates and a number of independents are contesting the 16 posts.

The majority of those who plan to vote say they will engage in split slate (ticket) voting.  Members plan to vote for candidates as individuals rather than engage in straight slate voting. This makes it difficult to predict winners although the poll finds that popular incumbent Jack Warner, former FIFA Vice President, will win the Chair position by a landslide against a young challenger Ashvani Mahabir, a lawyer.  Jack has overwhelming support in all constituencies and is on course to winning the most votes of any of the candidates up for posts.  Had the popular chairman led a slate of candidates, his long coattails would have carried them to victory.

Also, popular opinion favours the familiar names of individuals who hold government positions giving the edge to the Nationalist Slate led by Housing Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilall to win most of the other posts up for grabs.

Although people are disenchanted with the government’s performance and UNC members express utter contempt for Ministers, opinion across the country says well known government officials have the upper hand. However, voters are not pleased with some of the incumbents who are extremely unpopular and who will need slate support in order to prevail.

People were asked whether they support former leader Basdeo Panday putting up a Next Generation slate of candidates to contest for posts with a majority answering in the negative. But many say Panday is being disrespected by former colleagues and are increasingly becoming sympathetic to him.

Incumbent deputy Dr. Moonilall is well liked for re-election for one of the three deputy posts while Dr. Fuad Khan comes in for a lot praises for his work as Minister of Health.  Foreign Minister Dr. Suruj Rambachan is also involved in a close fight to retain his deputy post.  San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray does not have much support and will need slate support to capture a deputy slot while Minister of Justice Herbert Volney does not have traction. A few other Ministers are also struggling to win executive posts but may prevail because of their association with the PM, who reports say, is backing the Nationalists slate.

The outcome of the contests depends largely on voting day organization.  Those who get their supporters out through whatever influence will emerge winners.  As one respondent put it, those who have more corn will feed more fowls.

A positive aspect of the elections is the democracy it allows supporters or members to choose the party leadership in a direct vote. Our parties need to embrace this concept.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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