Sunday 12 July, 2020

PNM lost marks with Marlene’s third strike, political analyst says

The People’s National Movement (PNM) has lost a great deal of credibility following the fallout of the arrest and subsequent charges of fraud and corruption laid against Marlene McDonald which led to her third firing as a Minister.

Immediately following this development came news that Garvin Simonette, who was tipped to replace her as Public Administration Minister, had DUI charges against him in the United States which saw his eventual resignation as a Senator.

As political analyst Dr Winford James puts it – marks have now been lost by the party when it comes to public confidence, especially given these two developments and a number of other issues pending resolution.

“Across the country, the PNM would have lost a lot of credibility. With the two scandals put together… there can be no mistake that marks have been lost.”

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Only this week, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar revealed that companies owned by Government Senator Foster Cummings received State contracts totalling millions of dollars over the years.

The political analyst warned that there would be more revelations of this kind to come, as should be expected, in the lead up to the elections.

He noted that the United National Congress (UNC) during its last stint in Government splintered badly as members of their coalition left the party, while their tenure was also characterised by firings of sitting ministers.

He said the PNM was now witnessing its own scandals, and it remained to be seen how these matters would be addressed.

On the possibility of a fourth return to the Cabinet for McDonald, Dr James said there have been too many “blighs” when it came to the Port-of-Spain MP being brought back to Cabinet.

“Without casting aspersions, and understanding that Ms McDonald is yet to have her day in court, I think there have been too many blighs given by the Prime Minister and this may lead to some discontent within the party.”

But he believes that this would not affect the party’s support, as he said while there may be some affection lost for McDonald within the constituency, the Port-of-Spain South seat remains one of the PNM’s strongholds.

“Quite easily, I think they will be able to retain that seat due to the margin of victory they have held over the United National Congress in these areas over the years.”  

He said there would be some damage done to her reputation with the charges against her, but McDonald would continue to retain the Port-of-Spain South seat.

“I think she will hold on to that. There is no reason for a by-election at this stage. To trigger a by-election, the Prime Minister would have to remove Ms McDonald from her seat, but at this stage, that’s not necessary.”  

He said the same held true for Darryl Smith, who was fired as Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, but remains as Diego Martin North MP.

The Prime Minister in April this year indicated that a report on the dismissal and subsequent payout to Smith’s personal assistant has been further delayed due to legal challenges. Since then, there has been no further update on the matter.

Dr James said he was doubtful that Smith would lose support as his seat was another one of the safe seats “in the hall of the PNM”.

The political analyst said given these developments, he believes the party will ultimately lose some support among voters, but it would be nothing more than a “wrinkle in the shirt”.

Overall, the political analyst believes the party is still in a strong place despite the recent scandals witnessed and will garner support ahead of the upcoming Local Government and General Elections.

Dr James said it was still early with Local Government elections on the horizon and no date announced yet it was difficult to ascertain the impact of the recent debacles, as the electorate was not quite focused as intently on who to vote for.

He added that it was up to pollsters to keep atop of the pulse to anticipate how votes would swing.

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