Tough THA election choices for PNM, PDP

FILE PHOTO: PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine, second from left, and PDP political leader Watson Duke, right, ask supporters in Roxborough to show love to defeated Canaan/Bon Accord candidate Joel Sampson on election night. -
FILE PHOTO: PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine, second from left, and PDP political leader Watson Duke, right, ask supporters in Roxborough to show love to defeated Canaan/Bon Accord candidate Joel Sampson on election night. -

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said the People's National Movement (PDP) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) have some tough decisions to make ahead of the next Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election.

Ragoonath said both parties must carefully weigh the pros and cons when deciding on candidates.

He spoke with Newsday on Sunday as both parties started their nominations for the historic 15-seat political battle.

A date for the election is yet to announced by Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, after the EBC order proposing the restructuring of Tobago's electoral boundaries was passed in Parliament on September 15 by a simple majority.

The THA has been abeyance, yet to be fully constituted, since the January 25, 2021 election ended in an unprecedented six-six tie between the PNM and PDP.

Having two elections in one year leaves the PNM and PDP with much to think about in selecting the right candidates.

For instance, PDP's Pastor Terrence Baynes defeated PNM's Shomari Hector to snatch the Bethel/Mt Irvine seat from the incumbent PNM. However, it was a close race with Baynes prevailing by a mere 17 votes – 1,045 to 1,028.

In Canaan/Bon Accord it was a similar circumstance, PNM's Clarence Jacob won his seat by just 58 votes over PDP's Joel Sampson.

Asked if parties would look to retain a losing candidate who lost by a narrow margin to build upon the goodwill and strides made in the district, Ragoonath said, "I'm not sure what approaches the parties would use. But clearly the parties would have to go through proper screening processes.

"They have to weigh the pros and cons as to why the person would have lost, and a serious post mortem on what happened and why they ended up with that result.

“Based on the findings of the investigation they could then make a decision as to whether it is in the interest of the party to nominate the defeated person again, or they may very well feel that that person may not be the best person to put forward.

“It's all about how in-depth the screening process is and whether they would have done their respective post mortems on the last election."

Ragoonath does not believe the timing of the election would limit the parties’ options.

"No, I don't think so. The Tobagonian electorate were aware long time ago they had to go into a next poll – the question was when. At the rate the Central Government was going when they brought that bill in Parliament in March this year, they would have probably looked at an even earlier election.

“It's party politics, but the PNM thought it fit, they are in power and there was no need to rush anything. The way the (power-sharing) negotiations fizzled it was in PNM’s interest to keep things the way they were."

Duke: Losing candidates stayed active

Discussing the nomination process on Sunday, PDP leader Watson Duke kept his cards close to his chest but told Newsday all his losing candidates stayed active in their communities. He denied mandating them to do so.

"No, they did that on their own. They have passion for people. Once you are a PDP candidate, then that is a natural form of representation. You don't just represent just for an election, you represent until another candidate is found or you go on to the next level."

PDP's unsuccessful candidate for Bacolet/Mt St George, Megan Morrison hosted a book drive on August 31 giving out free school textbooks, back-to-school supplies and novels. Morrison told Newsday the initiative was triggered after a parent reached out to her asking for assistance ahead of the school term.

Duke added, "Sometimes you have to lose before you win. People want to see commitment. It's not that you lose because you not good. You lose because people were not ready or did not understand you. It's a number of things."

What does the PDP look for in a candidate?

"You have to look at the candidate's personality. He or she must possess the personality that can listen to people and represent their concern with good articulation and represent their concern from a position of commitment. I don't want to get into too much of it, but personality is important."

Callender: Candidates must be involved in community

FILE PHOTO: PNM's January 25, 2021 Bethel/Mt Irvine candidate Shomari Hector, left, and Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe display stained fingers after voting in the THA elections at the Montgomery Government Primary School. -[f
PNM Tobago Council leader Stanford Callender said the party looks for candidates who have a level of influence and involvement in the electoral district they are screening for.

"The person must have some basic understanding of the party. They must have involvement in the community and know the electoral district, be involved in some organisation. They must have some track record."

Defeated candidate Hector has not taken a step back since his defeat at the polls. He recently donate 100 food hampers to Bethel/Mt Irvine residents affected by the pandemic. On September 8, in observance of International Literacy Day, he distributed 25 tablets and other back-to-school supplies to four schools in Bethel/Mt Irvine.

Asked whether a losing candidate from the last election who stayed involved in the community would be looked at favourably, Callender said the machinery of the party groups begins the process of selecting a candidate.

"Our process is that when we start nominations, it starts with the party groups, then it goes to a screening process to evaluate the candidates. Someone might lose and the group will decide they don't go back with them. They are part of the process according to the (party) constitution. When that group nominates you, you are bound to be screened."


"Tough THA election choices for PNM, PDP"

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