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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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More ego than seats

Political analysts sceptical of Duke's ambition

Watson Duke announced his resignation as Public Services Association (PSA) president on Monday at the PSA headquarters on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain.
Watson Duke announced his resignation as Public Services Association (PSA) president on Monday at the PSA headquarters on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain.

Political commentator Dr Winford James believes unless there is a major shift in political support either within the People's National Movement or United National Congress, before the next general election, it is highly improbable the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) will win the two Tobago seats.

James was commenting on PDP leader Watson Duke's decision to relinquish his role as Public Services Association (PSA) president to focus on his political ambitions.

Duke, who was charged last week with sedition, announced during a news conference at the PSA's Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, head office, on Monday, he would give up his position as PSA leader on November 30 to focus on the needs of Tobagonians full-time.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader had previously announced his intention to contest the Tobago East and West seats in the next general election in hopes of bargaining with either of the two major political parties to become the country's next prime minister.

James regarded this as egotistical.

"Mr Duke has a very large ego in that regard," James told Newsday.

"I haven't heard him say anything about the House of Assembly election (in 2021). I imagine that goes without saying. His eyes are on the bigger picture of using the two Tobago seats which he hopes to win, and feels he can win, using his two seats as leverage for the UNC and the PNM."

James added: "What he says is that once any of those two parties can offer him a deal, he is going to go with that party. All of that sounds super improbable, sounds pie in the sky. So that for Mr Duke to come out on the victorious side, there will have to be great changes in people's politics and people's support for the major parties. There will have to be great, unprecedented changes in attitudes."

Asked whether Duke has the mettle to fulfil his ambition, James wondered if the PDP leader has had discussions with his membership in this regard.

"I don't know if it is unilateralism he is displaying here and is getting support from his party. But that goal that he has given himself is not going to be an easy goal to achieve. So, we will have to see how he prosecutes this new politics or this new set of behaviours that he has set out for himself."

James is maintaining a wait-and-see approach about how the party is likely to fare in the next general election.

"It is always a wait-and-see approach for fledgling political parties that are seeking to get a bigger part of the political pie."

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath also stayed clear of predicting Duke's political future.

"At this point, I cannot say because I do not know the ground in Tobago and how the Tobago people will react to his party," he said.

However, he said Duke's decision to devote his time to politics was expected, moreso given his sedition charge

"I think Mr Duke had long telegraphed his intention to enter into politics fully and he is now seeing the opportunity. He probably is going to use the fact that he was recently charged and is now linking that charge to political considerations rather than anything else. But the impact he will have in Tobago will depend on the people of Tobago and their reaction to his party."

The PDP was formed before the 2017 THA election. The party controls two electoral districts in the Assembly – Roxborough/Delaford and Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier, held by Duke and Farley Augustine, respectively.

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