I could say that the people didn’t act in their own best interests. A UNC supporter could say that the COP supporter didn’t act strategically. A PNM supporter could say…I don’t know, I suppose they could say “we win”.
Supporting a third party is always a risk. Trying to get an electoral system to do something it isn’t designed to do is always a risk. The commentators were saying that people support a party, not a person. People hated Ramesh Maharaj in 2001 when he helped the PNM win. The voted for him today, once he was back in the fold of the UNC.
If it’s true, and people will support “their” party (pretty much no matter what), how do you bring about change? One of the commentators said that there were three case where individual beat party – Tubal Uriah Butler, Eric Williams and Basdeo Panday. I don’t know about “ancient history” – Eric Williams, Butler. I know Panday. I also know that Panday has been talking about retirement for years, but even if he actually wishes to die with his boots on, will he really be able to face another election? I have my doubts. SO does he anoint a successor, pass the reins to someone else, or does he continue to hold until he dies and then lets those who survive him fight it out? The people support the party, and the party supports the leader. Patrick Manning showed that it doesn’t take any skill, just being in the right place at the right time.
And what of COP? There’s a real constituency of people who want something different. They are a third party, waiting in the wings, waiting to happen. A third force in a two-party state, coming together once every few decades, then fading back, sitting uncomfortably in one party or the other. Or do the people who who led COP stay there, and try to change the political culture? Trinidadian culture is changing. It takes forty years in the wilderness to forge a new tribe. But what we want isn’t a new tribe. We want something beyond tribe, something beyond maximum leaders, something more democratic. Is that too much to ask?