THE CONVENING of a meeting later this month by former Oropouche West MP Mickela Panday has triggered a range of reactions and raised new possibilities on the local political landscape.
Panday’s meeting, and the interest in it, is perhaps a reflection of the enduring appeal of that special thing: the political family. We have had the Montanos, the Bharaths, the Ramadhars. None match the fact that Mickela’s father is Basdeo Panday, a former prime minister, and that her uncle is Subhas Panday, who served as an MP and minister in the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration.
With the PNM and UNC sparring daily over the legislative agenda, their respective records and legacies, and a slew of allegations and counter-allegations ranging from corruption to cybercrime, a yearning for a new kind of politics is, yet again in our history, triggering talk of third forces.
There is the view that the youngest Panday has not met with favour in the current UNC configuration. Basdeo Panday was defeated by Persad-Bissessar in his bid for party leadership in 2010. Mickela Panday’s May 20 meeting is ostensibly being held to gauge the views of “young people” – however that is defined – as to what is needed now. But some simply see it as the start of a move to establish a new kid on the block.
The rumours have brought back to the fore the first major challenge any new entity in Trinidad and Tobago faces. The history of parties like the ONR and COP has led many to be weary of how some parties come away with lots of votes nationally but never seats and how they simply achieve a splitting of the vote of either of the two parties.
Indeed, it is now a good thing to ask whether this country’s politics is now basically a two-party one, similar to countries like the US and, to some extent, the UK. Will there ever be room for third parties to win seats on their own steam?
But it could be that the main objective of the May 20 meeting is also to simply reopen debate on the leadership of the current UNC political leader, Persad-Bissessar. Such a debate is always a good thing in any party. However, the current UNC leader has clearly regarded such debates as nothing more than a distraction, pulling forward the internal party leadership election last year for this reason.
All of this comes in a year when the ruling PNM is itself holding a major internal party election in June. The posts of political leader, chairman, vice chairman and general secretary are all up for grabs. Such elections are always fraught with risks for any leader. Therefore, it is safe to say that both parties, and many others, will be looking on at the May 20 meeting with interest.