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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Kamla vs Hazel?

AT THIS rate, things are going to be pretty easy for new Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. All she has to do is not hire any seerwomen, take any trips in a luxury executive jet, have Udecott buy $3million curtains or threaten to destroy democracy by undermining the judiciary and she will be a shoe-in at the next General Elections.

Of course things are likely to be a little rockier than that. After all, with all those clumps in the carpet in Parliament you never know what could happen, especially with Basdeo Panday sitting behind you.

All week Panday continued to demonstrate his unwillingness to accept the results of the elections he called. His band of supporters, some of whom are family members, also remain steadfast in their determination to ignore the results of the UNC polls on January 24.

But after being wiped out in the elections the right thing for Panday to have done was to resign. His failure to do so will be what he will be remembered for by the current generation of young Indo and Afro-Trinidadians.

That legacy, as well as all the nonsense about the “discovery” of membership cards (which were not needed to vote in the elections) also now taints those who, in the face of having a new political leader, were slow to declare their support.

Still, if Panday causes drama in the Lower House this will not affect support for Persad-Bissessar. Yes, the Opposition will appear divided, but it will be clear that Panday is being destructive and that will galvanise support for the new Opposition Leader. We will not likely see the kind of fallout in electoral support as occurred, perhaps, in the ULF days when Raffique Shah and Panday played musical chairs with the second seat on the Opposition benches.

Instead, Persad-Bissessar’s greatest challenge will be to consolidate her power, especially given the fact that if she loses only one supporter in the House she will no longer be able to command the majority of Opposition MPs and, hence, lose the post. Her assuming the post is thus on the one hand a key symbolic victory, but on the other, given the convulsions within the UNC, a clear risk.

She will also find herself increasingly the target of the ruling Government, the PNM. For a long while now it has been clear that the highest ranks of that party have viewed her as a threat. But in addition to dirtying Persad-Bissessar’s waters (by doing such things as exploiting the inexperience of her Chief Whip Warner and attacking her in Parliament) the PNM will also have in place an end game of its own before the next General Elections. That end game may focus more on making the PNM more appealing instead of making Persad-Bissessar unappealing. And this, in a sense, is the challenge for the PNM which has had the fortune of surviving for almost a decade in office before the population at large began to realise that it has elected an apparently odd man who consults a spiritual advisor who once visited Robert Mugabe.

One way down the road for the PNM to neutralise the “Kamla factor” might be to push forward its spin on being a woman’s party. The potential nuclear bomb of Hazel Manning, and a possible campaign by her for the seat of Prime Minister might be one option despatched. Pitting a woman against a woman at the next elections might be a brilliant move by the PNM. What is clear is that over the coming months the PNM women will play more than cosmetic roles and will raise the prospect of intriguing elections to come.

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