Port-of-Spain, Sep 6 (IANS) Trinidad and Tobago will vote on Monday to elect its 11th parliament with incumbent Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar trying to hold on to power she gained on May 2010.
She has selected several new candidates including ace footballer Brent Sancho, and the country’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Rodney Charles, who is also the United National Congress (UNC) campaign manager.
Persad-Bissessar is leading a composite team representing candidates from the Congress of the People (COP) led by one of the nation’s top criminal lawyers Prakash Ramadhar, and candidates from the Tobago Organization of People and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC). All these parties are gathered under the banner of the People’s Partnership (PP).
Latest poll surveys indicate that the PP will return to power by a slim majority in the 41-seat House of Representatives.
At the time of dissolution of Parliament in June, the PP had 27 parliamentarians down from the original 29 following the resignations of former justice minister — and FIFA ex-vice-president — Herbert Volney and Jack Warner, who has formed his own party the Independent Liberal Party — which has a 5.5 percent popular support.
Persad-Bissessar has a popular rating of 42.4 percent while leader of opposition Keith Rowley of the People’s National Movement (PNM) gets 35.3 percent. However, according to the latest poll, 42.3 of the voters say that they would vote for the incumbent government while 35.4 percent favoured the PNM.
Persad-Bissessar has promised more well-paying jobs, zero tolerance approach to crime, more school places and continuation of its laptop programme to include those for primary schools, and world-class health care.
Rowley’s PNM promises to spend more on vanity projects like big buildings and reintroduce the building and land taxes, and rapid rail which is earmarked to cost over $10 billion.
Both parties are wooing the undecided voters who amount to about 30 percent of the electorate of just below 1.1 million voters out of a population of 1.3 million.
A large proportion of the voters are young people, some of whom will be visiting the polling booth for the first time.
Some 40 percent of the people are of East Indian extraction whose forefathers were induced to come here to work on increasing the agricultural capacity of the then colony of Trinidad, following the emancipation of slaves in 1838. East Indians totalled almost 148,000 coming from principally Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Persad-Bissessar is the first Hindu and woman on the country’s political landscape and to become prime minister. She is also the second person of East Indian diaspora to reach the pinnacle of power, the first being Basdeo Panday in 1995, who has since retired from active politics.
(Paras Ramoutar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)