Trinidad and Tobago

United National Congress

Published 22nd January, 2013

The United National Congress or UNC was founded in 1989 by Basdeo Panday a lawyer and former trade unionist. The party describes itself as Centre-left and believes in Democratic socialism, Social-democracy and the Third Way.

The United National Congress has had a troubled history, with some successes and plenty of internal strife.

In their first political campaign the party took 13 of the 36 seats in the 1991 election and in 1995 won the general election by taking 17 of the 36 seats. They went on to win the 2000 general election with 19 of the 36 seats in the House of Representatives, but defections by three of their parliamentarians forced the party to call an early election in 2001.

The 2001 election saw the UNC in a dead heat with the People’s National Movement (PNM), each taking 16 seats, but President Arthur Robinson asked Patrick Manning of the PNM to form a government and the UNC went into opposition.

The Manning government was short lived and another general election was held in 2002, but this time the PNM managed to win a majority and the UNC were firmly in opposition. The next few years were not kind to the UNC with a series of fallings out and defections. Their problems were exacerbated when their leader Basdeo Panday was arrested for bribery in 2005 and convicted of fraud in 2006.

Panday refused to release political leadership of the party but in 2006 he was replaced by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. She only lasted a year as Panday came back and took control of the party once more. On 24th January 2010 Panday was challenged again by Kamla Persad-Bissessar and she won an impressive victory in the leadership election.

Persad-Bissessar took the party into the 2010 elections as the leading party in a four party coalition called the People’s Partnership. They won 29 of the 41 seats in the House of Representatives and Kamla Persad-Bissessar became the first woman Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

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