CHALLENGER for the political leadership of the United National Congress (UNC) Vasant Bharath has conceded defeat to Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her team.
From all indications, Persad-Bissessar’s Team Star, in one of the lowest voter turnouts, after an election said to be fraught with irregularities, won all 18 seats that constitute the UNC’s national executive.
Fewer than 20,000 voters from among the 120,000 eligible voted on Sunday.
Persad-Bissessar said on Sunday night that the trend was very clear that Team Star will win, but they were awaiting the official results
Shortly after midnight, Bharath who led the Lotus Team, accepted the preliminary figures which showed Persad-Bissessar’s full slate taking control.
He wished them success in their term of office and offered an olive branch to begin the “urgent and extensive exercise of rebuilding and renewing the UNC.”
He said he was honoured and humbled by those who supported the Lotus team to bring about necessary changes.
He also thanked those who consented to fight alongside him.
But while acknowledging the results, Bharath charged that the election was marred by widespread irregularities, which disenfranchised scores of people from exercising their right to vote.
Among them was his father, lifetime UNC member, Dr John Bharath, whose name was not on the voting list.
However, Bharath said scores of people who were not on the revised list of electors were allowed to vote, including non-financial members.
He also claimed some voters were verbally abused, bullied and intimidated at polling stations, while at least two MPs were seen openly campaigning among members lining up to vote.
He said there were several documented of examples of electoral irregularities, including hanfing out Team Star paraphernalia within the precincts of some polling stations.
“It is most ironic that these gross abnormalities took place at the hands of an incumbent political leader who had lobbied for independent observers for the August 10 general election," he commented.
“Further, the leader had declined to concede defeat in the general election and had claimed for several days that there were electoral irregularities.”
With the electoral process behind the party, Bharath who had been lobbying for transparency and accountability, urged members not to engage in recriminations.
“Antagonism and reproach would only harm an organisation that requires the commitment and united purpose of all its human resources in order to displace the failed People’s National Movement at the next general election.”
He called on Persad-Bissessar to embrace and integrate all party supporters and sympathisers in the essential organisational restructuring he said was required if the UNC is to become a viable political force.
He said her first assignment should be to determine why there is such apathy among members, as evidenced by the very low turnout.
“It is instructive that 19 UNC MPs could only motivate a tiny minority of members to participate in the electoral process," he warned. “A first measure in removing the PNM from national office must be to inspire the UNC’s ground troops to the party’s cause. “