Trinidad and Tobago’s Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar has been retained as political leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) after her main challenger for the post, Vasant Bharath, a former trade minister, confirmed Monday that he had conceded defeat.
“The gap is far too large,” Bharath told reporters, adding that he has no intention of legally challenging the outcome, despite raising concerns over the conduct of the internal polls.
UNC officials said that at least 17,000 supporters were eligible to cast ballots in the election, with Persad Bissessar, 68, gaining at least 15,000. The official results are due later on Monday.
In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Persad Bissessar said that “the Star Team last night claimed victory in the UNC’s internal polls, there was a clear trend that the Star slate was going to win when the official results came in. Leadership challenger, Vasanth Bharath conceded”.
This will be her third victory as leader of the party, having defeated its founding member, Basdeo Panday in 2010, becoming the first woman to head a major political party in T&T.
She was the first woman to head a government when she led the coalition People’s Partnership administration that was defeated in 2015. Her political opponents have said she has lost 11 elections including two general elections since she has been at the helm of the party.
UNC Deputy Leader Dr. Lackram Bodoe, who was among the 18 candidates that were on Persad Bissessar’s “Star” slate, said Monday, “I think is very safe to confirm victory although we are awaiting the official results.”
But the campaign for elections, held on Sunday, was tainted with allegations of irregularities, race and Persad’s Bissessar’s own record in politics.
“This is more than a party election,” Bharath told reporters Monday, saying that the national community had been viewing the polls as “to how we conduct ourselves”.
He said the election was to have served as an option for voters regarding the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) government.
“The party in its current form does not present a credible option,” he said saying that he would be taking the period ahead to see after his private affairs, including getting his daughter who is in London back to Trinidad and Tobago, since entry into the country is limited given that the borders have been closed since March.