Trinidad, Tobago electing a leader

Few leaders have dominated their nations' politics as the late Dr. Eric Williams did in Trinidad and Tobago for more than 25 years. Although he ruled somewhat autocratically - and secretively in recent years - Dr. Williams left a legacy of democratic government for the twin-island nation in the southeastern Caribbean.

But Williams did little to encourage potential new leaders, even though almost 65 percent of adult Trinidadians are under age 30 and have never known another leader. His passing last March left a political vacumn.

Today the nation takes its first major step in the post-Williams era, voting for a new leader. Voters will choose a Parliament, but the focus is on who becomes prime minister and which direction the nation takes.

The two main candidates for prime minister are George Chambers, a Williams associate who has been interim prime minister, and Karl Hudson-Phillips, former attorney general who broke with Williams in 1970.

Both are moderates. Mr. Chambers is the candidate of Williams's People's National Movement. As the incumbent, he enjoys support of governmental machinery. But Mr. Hudson-Phillips of the Organization for National Reconstruction has strong support among the growing middle class.

If it were just between the two parties, Mr. Chambers might well win. But other parties to the left of the top two may affect the vote.

These include the Tapia House Movement, headed by Lloyd Best, a black who is highly regarded in the Caribbean; the United Labour Front, led by Basdeo Panday, strong in Trinidad's East Indian society; and the Democratic Action Congress, led by A. N. R. Robinson, strong on Tobago. Knowing they are not strong enough individually to topple the People's National Movement, they lean toward Mr. Hudson-Phillips.

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