The National Executive (NATEX) of the United National Congress (UNC) meets on Wednesday at the party’s headquarters to discuss the situation that has developed as a result of the resignation of Jack Warner as the MP for Chaguanas West.
Warner resigned effective midnight on April 26, 2013. However Speaker Wade Mark is yet to make the announcement declaring the seat vacant. Parliament has been adjourned “to a date to be fixed” and it is expected that he would do it once the House of Representatives sits again. A bye-election must be held not later than 90 days from the date the seat is formally declared vacant.
The former UNC chairman and former National Security Minister has already started a campaign for re-election and has said he wants to run for the UNC, stating that he is “UNC to the bone”.
However party officials are not sure that is the right thing to do. They have said it would damage the credibility of the party and its leader, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, if she endorses him as a UNC candidate after accepting his resignation from cabinet and as chairman of the party.
However she has said that Warner has been an excellent MP, which suggests that she might not be entirely opposed to him continuing to represent the constituency.
The dilemma facing the party is how to allow Warner to contest an election for the UNC without the party losing credibility. Further, it is aware that whoever gets the nomination may face defeat because of the immense popularity of the former MP who has represented Chaguanas West since 2007.
Since the bye-election would come close to the Local Government Election it would be embarrassing for the party to lose one of its safe seats to Warner, who would likely run as an independent if his party denies him the opportunity to run as its candidate.
The Congress of the People (COP) has expressed an interest in running a candidate in Chaguanas West but COP is a member of the governing coalition so technically it amounts to the government against Warner. However, if COP were running in the seat it would take some of the heat off the UNC.
The PNM too will be in the race but its chances of winning in Chaguanas are remote. However what it will do is use the election campaign to test its strategy for the upcoming Local election and use every opportunity to attack the government and its leader from the political platform.