Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar seems likely to face yet another battle for the reins of her party following another defeat by the People’s National Movement in Monday’s General Election.
The situation developed yesterday with various senior party members being divided over her future, with some calling for her resignation while others said they still trusted her stewardship.
Asked yesterday whether the party will be engaging in succession planning after Persad-Bissessar suffered another defeat, Haynes said no.
“The UNC has clear internal processes in terms of how the leadership is selected. Until then the question of leadership does not arise. We have full confidence in the political leader,” Haynes said during a press conference in San Fernando called to discuss the party’s call for recounts in five constituencies.
Haynes explained that the party’s internal elections are due next year and supporters will have the opportunity to vote for a new leader if they so desired.
But a former UNC MP Fuad Khan and activist Devant Maharaj believe Persad-Bissessar should resign, adding the recount bid was futile.
A bitter Maharaj said, “The leadership should resign and those UNC candidates (who won) are best described as a kindergarten class unable to fight their way out of a paper bag.”
Maharaj was also unhappy Persad-Bissessar did not face supporters to address the defeat.
“In the circumstances, her Facebook statement wasn’t enough. A team is led by a leader and the leader can’t be without blame for failure. When you lose, you traditionally offer your resignation. No such thing here,” he said.
“The recount won’t produce changed results. It’s the same strategy UNC used in 2015 with election petitions – which failed. How can a PNM victory margin of 2,000-odd votes be seen as a ‘close figure?’ Our La Horquetta candidate, for instance, spent a long time working that seat and still lost. When the UNC won San Juan in 2015 by a margin of 500 votes, PNM didn’t seek recount.’’
He added, “We’ve seen figures showing where candidates who replaced Ganga and Ramona Ramdial apparently got less votes than they did. Why didn’t our supporters come out in safe seats? UNC shouldn’t have failed in this election since this was the most unpopular PNM government. UNC’s been kidnapped by people with personal interests. Members, if they ever find their backbone, should reorganise the party.’’
Maharaj said the leadership’s failure to congratulate Rowley on winning was also poor and ungracious.
Khan also agreed the recount call was a time-buying effort.
Asked if Persad-Bissessar was a spent force, Khan replied, “The party’s strategies in 2015 and this election didn’t work – we need a new strategist.’’
He said after losing two polls the onus is on Persad-Bissessar to do the correct things for the UNC to survive and “not end up as a chronic Opposition party.’’
“She (Persad-Bissessar) always said she needed to put youths in charge and this time we might need to put a youth in charge. But the way things were done in the election lead-up, many UNC stalwarts are no longer there. And the way newcomers were handpicked by UNC’s screening team has left a void on succession – we’re caught between a rock and hard place where leadership’s concerned,’’ Khan said.
“The screening team used a system to benefit the present leader. Roodal (Moonilal) is a choice but recent allegations against him have produced negative impact. I can’t see any of them taking the leadership at this point. This is now left to members to decide if to continue supporting her. The time is truly ripe for development of a third strong force which will be for equality.’’
Khan, who won the San Juan/Barataria seat for the party in 2015, was among those seeking unity with other parties in 2018.
“If UNC had adopted the approach we suggested, PNM would have been in Opposition today,” Khan said of that initiative.
Ex-Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim said it was disturbing the party could not overturn the PNM yet again.
“I’m very disappointed in the results after all the challenges the public went through under PNM. I’m sure the UNC will do introspection on what was done and what has to be done ahead,” Karim said.
Ex-Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial, who’d won that seat with 13,800 votes in 2015, added, “The party needs to reflect where it is, what was done and analyse after recount results.”