|18,000 vote in COP election today |
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, June 29 2014
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IN HER CREASE: Jameel Antoine from the National Training Centre for People with Disabilities, (NTCPD) tries to stump out Rayan Hughes from Happy Haven...
After a brief and somewhat controversial campaign, some 18,000 registered members of the Congress of the People (COP) will head to the polls today to elect a new political leader in the party’s internal election.
The election is being contested by incumbent leader Prakash Ramadhar, COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and deputy political leader Dr Lincoln Douglas.
Retired Defence Force sergeant Rufus Foster, who had also thrown his hat into the ring, decided at the last minute to pledge his support to Seepersad-Bachan, during the COP’s final televised leadership debate at Centre Point Mall, Ramsaran Street, Chaguanas, on Thursday night.
Seepersad-Bachan, who is also the Minister of Public Administration and San Fernando West MP, yesterday told Sunday Newsday she was proud of the manner in which she conducted her leadership bid, but lamented the “character assassination and propaganda,” which dominated the closing days of the campaign.
“I have been seeing a lot of campaign tricks and smearing going on even today (yesterday) through the blogs and I just want to say that this is not the code of conduct of the COP,” she said in a telephone interview.
Seepersad-Bachan said within the past few days she has been forced to defend her character against personal attacks through several talk shows.
“All of these attacks have been fabricated and I have conducted my campaign with integrity,” she said.
Seepersad-Bachan directed her comments to contender Ramadhar, whom she said also used the forum of Thursday’s leadership debate to condemn her candidacy.
“Mr Ramadhar is just being petty and he has to calm down,” she said.
Urging members to “salvage the COP,” by coming out in their numbers, Seepersad-Bachan claimed she was able to stimulate the thinking of members and encourage hope during her campaign.
Douglas also complained about circulating rumours which claimed that he was contemplating dropping out of the leadership race.
“That is totally false and there is no basis for that,” he said.
The Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism also expressed disgust at the quality of the campaign run by his two opponents.
He said: “I have pointed out that the political leader and chairman have been embroiled in conflict that cost this party a lot of pain and in my opinion, both disqualified themselves in leading this party.”
The Lopinot/Bon Air West MP said he is the only candidate with the wherewithal to “broaden the base,” of the COP in the various constituencies.
“I am the only man with that visionary leadership and a plan to lead members to that goal. I have the skills, experience, qualifications, ability and energy,” he said.
Douglas said the COP, during its last term, had not focussed on building the institutions of the party and as such, was unable to take a stand within the coalition to validate the party and its values. The party, he said, also could not manage its internal conflicts, evidenced by the perceived tensions between Ramadhar and Seepersad-Bachan during the campaign. Ramadhar could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, chairman of the COP’s Election Commission, Nizam Mohammed, says all systems are in place for today’s internal election. He said there are some 19 polling stations throughout the country, one of which is set up in Tobago. Mohammed told Sunday Newsday he expected a good turnout at the polls given the success of the party’s four televised leadership debates.
“I think the campaign went well. The live debates got a lot of commendation. It was the first time we have had debates being broadcast right in the living rooms,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly how many members would come out but I am expecting a large turnout,” he said.
Mohammed said voters, for the first time, will use an indelible election marker to exercise their franchise.
“This is widely used in India where 800 million people voted in the last election,” he claimed, adding that the marker is likely to be more efficient than the traditional method of dipping one’s index finger in electoral ink.
The COP, which was launched in September 2006 by Winston Dookeran, is the second major political party in the People’s Partnership coalition government. The party holds six seats in the House of Representatives.