Analyst: UNC members think Kamla can beat Rowley

Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. -
Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. -

POLITICAL analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said on June 16 the UNC membership believes Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is capable of beating the Prime Minister in next year's general election; although whether this belief translates to the general population was a different question.

He was giving his reaction to the sweeping victory of the Star Team – aligned to Persad-Bissessar – in June 15's UNC internal elections for a new national executive, exclusive of political leader.

The Star Team fended off a challenge by the United Patriots (UP) slate led by Mayaro MP Rushton Paray and including Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes-Alleyne, attorneys Larry Lalla and Kiel Taklalasingh and former council chairman Henry Awong. Star candidates got an average of 13,000 votes each, while UP candidates each got roughly 4,000 votes.

Ragoonath also alerted that outcomes of the two local government by-elections on June 17 will have some significance for the 2025 general election, especially the Lengua seat, which he said falls in the Moruga constituency, where the UNC will want to beef up its 500-vote margin won in the 2020 general election.

He said Persad-Bissessar enjoyed an incumbency that was hard to challenge, despite her having unseated her predecessor Basdeo Panday in 2010.

Ragoonath said the mood on the ground was that despite concerns that Persad-Bissessar had not won another general election since 2010, the party's base was not deterred from continuing to support her, as shown by June 15's polls.

Newsday asked if her win was due to a mood among supporters that there was no leadership vacancy, due to a personal love for Persad-Bissessar or a feeling the UNC could beat the PNM next year.

He replied, "All of the above."

The party had dumped Panday in 2010 but not done similar to Persad-Bissessar by rejecting her slate, he said.

"There is still a feeling Kamla can lead the party into an election victory."

Asked if Paray's slate had made a weak challenge, Ragoonath gave a mixed answer.

Firstly, he queried Newsday's premise the UP slate had many unknowns – citing Haynes-Alleyne, Lalla and Awong, although admitting some candidates for lower-level posts were less known. Secondly, Ragoonath said Paray did not command the support enjoyed by former minister Vasant Bharath, who unsuccessfully challenged Persad-Bissessar for leadership in 2015.

"Vasant Bharath was leaps and bounds ahead in popularity and everything else compared to Paray, yet Vasant lost.

"It's not a matter of the slate, but a majority of people having confidence in the current leadership."

Newsday asked if the wider population also had faith in Persad-Bissessar.

"Three to one, the party supported Kamla. Whether that is spread across the whole country is a different question altogether."

He said within the UNC rank and file there was three-to-one support for her and a belief she can beat Rowley.

"There are other issues on the horizon. For instance, if the PNM is unable to take back Tobago, that takes their seats down to 20, which is not a majority."


"Analyst: UNC members think Kamla can beat Rowley"

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