Wed | Sep 23, 2020

Election D-Day for PNM, UNC

Published:Monday | August 10, 2020 | 12:19 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Keith Rowley
Keith Rowley

A cliffhanger is expected when the final votes are tallied this evening in the Trinidad and Tobago general election.

However, a number of political pundits give Dr Keith Rowley’s incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM) the slight edge over the United National Congress (UNC), led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Like Jamaica, Trinidad holds an election every five years, with the PNM and the UNC the main rivals.

About 1.13 million electors will vote at some 2,200 polling stations across the twin-island republic. Unlike the last election, no extension will be allowed, Trinidad’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has said.

Opinion polls done up to mid-week give the PNM a slender five per cent lead over Persad-Bissessar’s party, but it could be “fool’s gold”, according to a local journalist in Trinidad.

Peter Richards, who writes for CANA news, suggests the outcome could go either way, despite what the various polls show.

“Even though you have all the social-distancing issues in play and with rain expected in the evening, the EBC has made it clear there will be no extension even for COVID measures,” Richards told The Gleaner on Sunday afternoon.

He said both the PNM and the UNC will go into the election with at least 12 sure seats, leaving a handful of marginals in play.

“People vote in Trinidad not on issues, they vote primarily along racial lines, on racial issues. The PNM is Afro and the UNC is Indian, and they both have at least 12 and 13 sure seats,” said Richards.

“... I am not getting into Tobago, because the UNC is not contesting any of the seats there. So you have at least five marginal seats, and that probably will give you an indication as to where the election is going.”

Based on the variables, Richards believes that the election result ought not to be deemed a foregone conclusion, even if the polls seem to favour the PNM.

“With both the PNM and the UNC holding firmly on to 12 sure seats, and that’s where they concentrated most of the virtual campaign – on radio, television and the Internet – basically, it’s likely to be a very close election,” said Richards.

CHANGED LANDSCAPE

If the election finishes 21 seats to 20, either way, it could change the entire political landscape.

“The marginal seats will be pivotal if the opposition gains any inroads into those constituencies, and then we also have in Tobago East, Watson Duke, who seems like he can wrest that constituency from the PNM,” Richards said.

Duke, leader of the Progressive Democratic Party and the minority leader in the House of Assembly, was labelled an agent of the UNC by Prime Minister Rowley.

In total, 19 political parties are set to contest the election, with the PNM the only party fielding candidates for the 39 seats in Trinidad and the two in Tobago.

The UNC has offered candidates for all the constituencies in Trinidad. The party is not contesting seats in Tobago.

The Progressive Empowerment Party has confirmed 28 candidates who will be contesting seats.

The EBC said that four independent candidates have presented themselves in the electoral districts of Chaguanas East, Moruga/Tableland, St Joseph, and Tobago West.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com