By CECILY ASSON Monday, March 26 2012
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CHEERS: Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner and his wife Maureen toast his overwhelming victory in the UNC internal elections on Saturday ni...
WORKS and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner’s popularity continues to grow by leaps and bounds within the United National Congress (UNC) as he convincingly beat his closest rival for chairmanship in the party’s internal elections in Saturday, by a whopping 12,000 votes.
Ashvani Mahabir who appeared to be a contender in the days prior to the elections could only muster a paltry 656 votes. Warner secured 12,656 votes — 3,000 more than what he tallied in the last internal elections of the party in 2010.
Voting began at about 6 am on Saturday and a preliminary list of the results was released to the media by chairman of the Internal elections Committee Kemchand Ramdath, who estimated that approximately 20,000 of the UNC’s membership voted for a new executive.
Also securing victory was the entire Nationalists slate led by Minister of Housing and Environment, Dr Roodal Moonilal. Warner refused to be part of any slate.
There were two other slates in the race — the “UNC Soldiers” led by former journalist Sunil Ramjitsingh and “Generation Next”, the latter having as its adviser, UNC founder, former political leader and former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday. “Generation Next” fielded candidates for all posts except that of chairman.
On Saturday night, at his Chaguanas West constituency office, Warner told Newsday, “I am extremely happy with the win. It just goes to show what hard work can achieve.” The chairman said he felt vindicated since it showed persons were no longer voting along religious or racial lines. The victory, Warner noted, was his preparation for next general elections.
From as early as 8 am on Saturday when the polls opened, voters began trekking to the 39 polling stations across Trinidad and Tobago to cast their ballots for 63 candidates. Polls closed at 6 pm and unlike 2010 where there was a lot of activity in the Rienzi Complex in Couva, the party’s headquarters was like a ghost town Saturday night. The first set of ballot boxes began arriving at about 8.30 pm.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, speaking to reporters at Shiva Boys’ College in Penal, where she had gone to cast her vote, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stated she would not be visiting Rienzi Complex since results would not be known until the early hours of Sunday morning.
She also said this year’s elections were less hectic than when she contested the post of political leader two years ago. Among those at the complex on Saturday night were Science Technology and Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim; Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap — who was returned as Policy and Strategy Officer — and President of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union (NUGFW) James Lambert.
Lambert told reporters he has been a UNC member for a number of years and had a keen interest in the results, hence his presence. He said he supported candidates like Dr Moonilal for Deputy Political Leader.
Newsday spoke to Panday’s daughter Mikela yesterday who said she was not fazed by the results. “If it did anything for us, it strengthened us and it is not the last you will be hearing of Generation Next. We gave it our best shot,” Mikela said.
Panday called Saturday’s voting “a complete mockery” and said her team will meet later this week for a post-mortem. “We will discuss everything including all the challenges we faced yesterday in and out of the polling stations and then we will know where we go from there.”