IT’S A CONFUSING time to be a Tobago voter.
People who voted for the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in 2021 thought they got a PDP government, but now, with this week’s resignation of the entire Tobago House of Assembly (THA) executive council, have found they voted for a group of “independents.”
This was the case after the latest chapter in a dramatic falling-out between Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and the PDP’s political leader, Watson Duke.
All of this would appear to be good news for the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and its Minority Leader, Kelvon Morris.
Except that the dynamics in the chamber are now such that it is not clear who exactly is the leader who commands the support of the largest number of assemblymen who do not support the Chief Secretary – which is how the law defines a minority leader.
Is this Mr Morris, the lone PNM member; or Mr Duke, who is now the lone PDP member?
Mr Morris is still recovering from a gaffe in which he nominated Mr Duke for Deputy Chief Secretary in a vote not long after the PDP squabble began. PNM voters are still scratching their heads at Mr Morris’s ill-judged attempt to fan the flames. He vows never to make that mistake again.
He may not have a chance to.
[caption id="attachment_990162" align="alignnone" width="1024"] PDP political leader Watson Duke - David Reid[/caption]
Mr Duke is calling for the dissolution of the assembly and a fresh election and has asked for the newly independent seats to be declared vacant.
He should be careful what he wishes for.
The Tobago electorate will not tolerate endless bacchanal. Just as Tobago politicians – unlike their Trinidadian counterparts – are these days clearly rejecting the idea that they must show blind allegiance to their party, so too are Tobago voters capable of voting in their best interests.
Mr Augustine’s followers may give him a fresh mandate, excised from the baggage of Mr Duke. Or vice versa.
Or they may reject both for collectively plunging the island’s governance into disarray.
At the same time, voters may still feel the dissatisfaction that led to the outright rejection of the PNM in 2021 amid a zipline-project fiasco, among other things. Or they may revert to the sense of stability entailed by the successive tenures of PNM governance.
Mr Augustine does not feel a fresh election necessary, given his interpretation of the Tobago House of Assembly Act.
But the matter may not rest in his hands for long. The court may well be called upon to rule on the issue, raised by Mr Duke, of the possible vacation of the assembly seats under the Constitution.
Either way, Mr Augustine, whether under a new banner or no, needs to tell voters what exactly he and his team now stand for.
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