Duke starts campaign to test PDP love in Trinidad

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Progressive Democratic Patriots political leader Watson Duke at the party’s Trinidad office on Second Street, Barataria on Friday. – Angelo Marcelle

Following the 14-1 victory in the Tobago House of Assembly December 6 elections, Progressive Democratic Patriots leader Watson Duke is gearing up to enter the Trinidad political arena.

One week before the official launch of the PDP Trinidad Council, Duke was seen on his Facebook live streams campaigning in Barataria, San Juan and Curepe with a handful of PDP supporters handing out party jerseys and greeting people.

The office is located on Second Street, Barataria. An official launch is scheduled for April 10.

In an interview with Sunday Newsday on Friday at the new office, Duke along with his deputy political leader for PDP Trinidad council Kezel Jackson said the goal is to contest every election, “once the people say they are ready.”

He is confident of his chances in Trinidad because he believes the same way his six-year-old party ended PNM’s 20-year reign in Tobago, there are no safe seats for the PNM and UNC in Trinidad.

“The PDP has a different form of doing people politics and that changes everything…”

The Deputy Chief Secretary of the THA said his decision to enter the political arena in Trinidad was inspired by a call for better governance.

He said he has completely cancelled out the possibility of forming an alliance with other political entities unless the party’s supporters call for such a move.

Over the last five years, the former Public Services Association (PSA) president seemed to have moved away from the usual combative style of politics and has adopted a more personable approach.

Like his campaign in Tobago, his strategy will focus heavily on the man on the ground. “They are the ones that are most affected by any political decision because those are the ones who are most neglected now.”

Duke said is expects his opponents to use existing criminal charges, unresolved PSA issues and other accusations of corruption as distractions to interfere with his efforts to sway voters.

He told Sunday Newsday he has refocused his energy and will not be involved in mudslinging or drawn into any back and forth campaign talk with opponents.

Two weeks ago, Duke said he has plans to contest seats under the Port of Spain City Corporation for the pending local government elections this year.

But when asked if he has any identified candidates Duke said, “Elections is never seasonal, it’s a lifestyle.

“It matters not which of the elections come first the people would dictate our readiness and it’s at that point in time we would be ready. This is a different politics, we would not tell the people we are ready. Our politicking is simply getting involved to represent the people’s interest.”

Progressive Democratic Patriots interim deputy political leader Kezel Jackson at the party’s Trinidad office on Second Street, Barataria on Friday. – Angelo Marcelle

“They are ready for change that represents their thinking and way of life.”

The party promises a clean campaign.

“We don’t want to be another exchange party, we want to be the change.”

Whether his party would contest in the upcoming local elections would depend on the public’s response over the next few months of intense on the ground campaigning.

Still, he is certain the party would be ready to contest all 41 seats in the 2025 general elections. “We believe that the people of Tobago are safe under the PDP and they would not want to change that. So for the upcoming election, we believe they will support the PDP because of the level of support, progress and comfort they would have seen.”

Duke believes PDP can bring the same level of progress and comfort to Trinidad. He said that while the positions of deputy chief secretary and political leader are seen as separate roles, the goals of each position are inextricably linked.

Jackson, the interim deputy political leader of the Trinidad Council, said now is the best time for PDP to enter Trinidad’s political arena. “After the success of Tobago, Trinidad has been looking on and crying out. We are all aware of what’s happening and the cries coming from the different sectors so we need change.”

In 2015, Duke’s journey started as an independent candidate in the general elections of that year. Soon after he established the party and contested all 12 seats in the 2017 THA elections where he won two seats.

The party then went on to tie in a six-six deadlock with the PNM in the January 2021 THA elections.

The Election and Boundaries Commission later increased Tobago’s electoral districts from 12 to 15, under the direction of the Parliament, to reduce the likelihood of another tie.

In the December 6, 2021, THA elections, the PDP captured 14 seats to seize control of the assembly, ending two decades of PNM reign. Duke first announced plans to contest all elections in Trinidad during a live video last December, on his final day as PSA president.

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