PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad: Opposition Leader, Basdeo Panday, should step down as political leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), according to a recent poll.
The poll, conducted by the U.S.-based North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA), also indicates that many supporters of the party are disenchanted over consistent internal fighting, which resulted in a violent confrontation last month.
Former attorney general, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Vice President of the International Football Federation (FIFA), Jack Warner, are leading the call for Panday to step down and allow internal elections. The two have been joined by former culture minister, Winston “Gypsy” Peters.
However, Panday and his supporters have dismissed the call, insisting that internal elections would be held after the local government polls, slated for later this year.
“Voters feel as long as Panday is involved in the politics of the UNC, the PNM (People’s National Movement) will win elections. Voters overwhelmingly said they will not support an opposition led by Panday,” according to a NACTA statement.
“The poll shows support for the UNC has shrunk considerably since the last general elections and there are mixed feelings among disgruntled PNM supporters as well as supporters of the COP (Congress of the People) about any tie up with the UNC,” the pollsters said.
According to NACTA, most of the COP supporters are opposed to any accommodation with UNC led by Panday, but are supportive of an alliance with Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Jack Warner and Winston “Gypsy” Peters to unite the opposition in an electoral contest.
NACTA said it interviewed 462 individuals reflecting the demographic composition of the population and that 76 per cent were in favour of the campaign in which the dissidents have undertaken in calling for change in the UNC.
When asked if they will support the UNC in the next election if it is led by Panday, only 11 per cent said they would, “a steep drop from the 30 per cent popular support the UNC obtained in the last general election in 2007″ the poll group said.
NACTA said that 86 per cent of respondents were also opposed to any move to dismiss Maharaj and Warner from the party.
“Asked if they feel the opposition parties should unite to contest the next election, there were mixed opinions with PNM supporters opposing such an alliance and UNC supporters endorsing an alliance.”