Ragoonath: No advantage to any party in local government elections

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. –

UWI political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath does not see May 18 Privy Council decision against the extension of the life of local government bodies by one year, giving any political party an advantage over the other, whenever the next local government elections are held.

Asked whether the judgment or events arising from it gives any political party a clear advantage or disadvantage going into the elections, Ragoonath said,”The way our party politics operates. It does not imply any such thing.”

He added, “PNM people will vote for PNM and UNC people will vote for UNC.”

Ragoonath predicted there will be no surge of voters supporting or opposing any party in the elections because of the judgment.

Ragoonath said, “In local government polls, polls are normally low, under 40 per cent.”

That 40 per cent, he continued, represents core PNM and UNC voters alone.

Ragoonath added that these voters are not “the undecided (voters) who are hoping to vote and change a government.”

He said if PNM and UNC core supporters vote as they normally do in local government elections, the outcome is easy to determine.

In reference to the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ (PDP) historic 14-1 Tobago House of Assembly election victory in December 2021, Ragoonath said, “We are not expecting a Tobago landslide.”

As a result of the judgment, Ragoonath believes the Prime Minister should call the elections as soon as possible.

Once the elections are held, he continued, “then we need to look at the whole process of validating what would have gone before (during the one year that the life of local government was extended.”

As a result of last week’s judgment, Ragoonath said, “The (local government) councils should no longer be sitting at all.”

Against this background, he continued, the validation of local government corporations should be from December 3, 2022 (when the extension began) to May 18 (when the judgment was delivered).

While the judgment prevents the local government councils from sitting, Ragoonath said the respective mayors and chairmen who lead those councils remain in office until the next local government elections.

Ragoonath reiterated that Dr Rowley has the power under the law to call the elections, once he gives the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) 35 days notice.

“The Prime Minister can come out immediately and say 35 days from today is the election. End of story.”

On Sunday, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah said the Representation of the People Act gives Rowley this power.

Ragoonath did not see a problem with Government bringing legislation to Parliament to validate the operations of local government corporations from December 3, 2022 to May 18.

But he said, “What they cannot do is keep the existing councils in office.”

Ragoonath reiterated that the judgment has rendered them “dead” since last December.

“You cannot resurrect something that is dead. Only Jesus Christ can do that.”

On May 18, Attorney General Reginald Armour SC said the judgment is under active consideration and he is being advised by eminent senior counsel.

Armour will subsequently advise the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on this matter.

Rowley will ultimately decide when the elections are held.

The PNM, UNC, National Transformation Alliance (NTA), PDP and Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) are the only parties which have signalled their intent to contest the elections.

Out of the 14 local government corporations in Trinidad, the PNM and UNC each control seven corporations.