Bharath Pulls Out of Race

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Vasant Bharath

Kamla Moves Closer to Retaining Leadership of UNC

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar moved closer to retaining the leadership of the United National Congress (UNC) after Vasant Bharat, considered her main challenger, announced that he was no longer contesting the leadership if the party.

Bharat told a news conference that the election process was flawed and because of the illegality of the election any UNC member can challenge the results in a court of law. The former minister in the Persad Bissessar coalition People’s Partnership government also called for the resignation of the UNC’s Elections Management Committee, accusing the members of showing open bias towards the former prime minister.

“It is with much regret to the thousands of electors within the rank and file of the UNC who seek meaningful change at the level of its leadership in order to set the party on the path of a great victory over the PNM (People’s National Movement) and a return to government, that I say I cannot and will not lead any group into this charade of illegality.

“It is time we return to those treasured values of honesty, decency and civility. My group and I shall therefore not participate in a poll in which there is no vacancy for political leader and we shall not participate in a poll in which the offered slate of candidates of the incumbent political leader starts at an unfair and significant advantage. We shall not participate in any election run by biased and corrupted persons who seek their own political gain,” Bharat said.

Persad Bissessar, who filed her nomination papers to contest the election on November 26, is seeking a fresh mandate from the party supporters even though she still has at least one year on her position as party leader.

The UNC said that Persad Bissessar “has taken the decision to seek a fresh mandate from the party members as the party prepares for a General Election” that is not due until 2020.
“The United National Congress remains committed to its democratic founding principles and we remain a people’s organisation. We will continue to pursue a people’s agenda with a commitment to social justice as a guiding principle to national development,” the party said.

But one opposition legislator, Ganga Singh, has questioned whether Persad Bissessar is in breach of the UNC’s constitution by seeking re-election ahead of time.
UNC founder and former leader Basdeo Panday has also criticised Persad Bissessar saying she is breaching the UNC’s constitution.
Persad Bissessar, who was at the helm of the UNC when it lost the 2015 general election to the PNM,

said she felt confident that her team of new faces and those with experience will be able to come to put the party on a road to victory.

She said the UNC has been a strong party, becoming “more united and focused against the real enemy the PNM” and when asked about the decision of Bharath not to contest, said she wished him good luck in his future endeavours. – CMC

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