Kamla Bissessar is no longer the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. She lost the elections which were held in the twin-island republic last Monday.
She lost by a bigger margin of seats than the PNM did five years ago. There is an explanation for this-, the marginal seats did not go her way this time.
The irony of course is that if the elections were based on proportional representation she would have won by a landslide because she won a majority of the votes cast but only obtained a minority of the seats.
No one is however claiming that in Trinidad and Tobago the will of the majority of the people should be respected. The system is based on the majority of seats in parliament and in this regard, Kamla got fewer seats than the PNM which has secured the right to govern the country for the next five years.
Kamla won the popular vote but lost the government. This column explores why she lost the elections.
There is no single factor but there is a major factor. That factor had to do with the numerous scandals which had plagued members of her administration as against the government itself. Too many of her Cabinet ministers and top members of her administration were embroiled in controversies. Too many of them had to be fired. While she did enjoy popularity because of the action she took in letting them go, many people questioned how in fact she would have allowed those persons to be part of her governing administration. In the end it was just too many persons who had to be let go and because of this people felt that a new government was needed. This was the major reason.
Another reason why she lost the elections was because there was not the same degree of passion and cohesion within the People’s Partnership as there was five years ago. Divisions had stepped in. There was only a partnership in name, not in spirit. As such, Kamla could not win over the undecided voters as she had done five years earlier. They had long decided that with the coalition weakening, it was time for a change.
The third reason for the defeat of the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago was that there was disunity within the United National Congress, the main partner in the People’s Partnership and the party that Kamla wrested from Basdeo Panday. This disunity was confirmed one day after the loss of power when a grouping calling itself the UNC Patriots called for her to step down. Kamla was undermined from within and this led to a poorly coordinated campaign and the loss of political power.
The fourth reason why Kamla lost was because the elections coincided with a decline in economic growth. The economy actually contracted and with oil revenues falling, Kamla could not do more than she did. The benefits of the earlier spike in petrol dollars did not filter down to the small man because the government invested in major infrastructural projects which did not increase the incomes of the average man. This led people to want a change and they voted against the change.
It is sad indictment against the people of Trinidad and Tobago that the first female Prime Minister was voted out after a mere one term when there was no major economic or social implosion within the country.
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