‘Informed’ voters will decide election

By Raffique Shah
May 30, 2023

Raffique ShahNot for the first time in its 67-year history, the People’s National Movement goes into a local government election as the underdog. In 2019, as I recall it, the main opposition United National Congress, and some other parties with which it had forged alliances of sorts, seemed confident they would flog the PNM in the wake of a sluggish national economy, job cuts and its failure to secure support for local government reforms that intended to increase the powers of the municipal corporations.

The opposition parties intensified their campaigns against the property tax, sensing that would broaden their support base, and proceeded to oppose just about every bill the ruling party took to Parliament. When the local government election was held in early December 2019, the PNM lost ground but retained much control of key corporations. The UNC won the popular vote by polling 202,584 votes, while the PNM polled 161,962 votes. The four-per cent swing in favour of the UNC did not give them any major gains in terms of corporations. What it did, however, was have a visual impact on those who looked at the map of Trinidad. The UNC yellow appears overwhelming, leaving just pockets on the western coast of the island in red and the north-west of the country PNM-controlled.

To the UNC supporters, their control of large swathes of the country gives them a sense of power, while at the same time denying them real power. I should note here that the two Tobago seats that the PNM won to give them the edge in 2020 may well have dissipated in the fog of the Tobago House of Assembly election in 2022.

In a bizarre twist, Tobagonians went to the polls three times in less than six months and the PNM moved from control of the THA to a lone seat in the now 14-member Assembly. That astounding development injected new life into the opposition parties, especially the UNC and Watson Duke’s PDP. But if astounding electoral results in those elections set the PNM up for what might have been seen as the perfect fall from power and from grace, even more bizarre developments would follow. Some may say predictably, Farley Augustine, the man who was the face of the PDP as Watson played king-maker, stole everything but the party’s name from Duke. That was good news for the PNM. The party has always held itself out as being the most stable political organisation in the country. Indeed its founder, Dr Eric Williams, used to look his opponents over the years in their faces and ask: if not the PNM, then what? Chaos?

So, while the opposition parties are licking their chops in anticipation of defeating the PNM, not only in the local government election due sometime in August, they would do well to trim their weekly theatrics and seriously approach the issue of power. When they voted against the local government electoral reform bill, that could be seen as a classic case of cutting their noses to spoil their faces. The reforms proposed, had they been implemented, would have left enhanced councils and councillors in charge of their own local affairs. That will have meant, too, being in control of much more money obtained from burgesses through taxation, service provisions and like contributors to their coffers. They won’t have that now.

I note, too, that two UNC councillors have resigned and distanced themselves from the party. Ordinarily that is insignificant, but in the high-tension mode the UNC has placed the upcoming local election, such moves could trigger more seismic movements on both sides of the fence. Defeating the PNM in the local election could give the UNC greater traction as we await a general election in 2025. However, over the years we have learnt that the PNM has an election machinery second to none and when it gains traction, it’s not easy to unseat them.

In 1986, a 33-3 defeat at the hands of the biggest broad-based opposition we had ever seen in this country, the NAR, left them for dead. The PNM would be defeated in 2002 and 2007 by the UNC, but it always arose before it turned into ashes to be the most powerful political force the country has known. Kindergarten politicians who think they can unseat the PNM by hounding its parliamentarians have never seen the party’s grassroots activists in full attack mode. It’s not a sight for foot-sore foot-soldiers of an opposition that seems to have waged war for far too many years to retain the conditioning required for protracted warfare.

As the build-up to the local election intensifies, all parties would do well to tone down their war cries and personal attacks and just stick with the issues. The informed citizens whose votes are critical to make the difference between a “win and loss” will expect the leaders and spokespersons for all parties to behave with some class and decorum.

3 thoughts on “‘Informed’ voters will decide election”

  1. The Rowley regime has shown great disdain for the system of democracy. No institution exist as independent and out of the PM circle of influence. The CoP of police elected by the PM and given a year extension.

    Democracy strongly recommends a separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and presidency. But the opposite is happening in sweet TnT. The Presidential position was given to a dear lady known to dwell in the bowels of the PNM.

    The Speaker of house, her husband is a close friend to the Rowley clan. She works hard to stifle debate, insults the Opposition Leader and acts with a level of control, arrogance and belligerence that make the Center of democracy the Parliament in TnT [a place where debate should be encouraged] now a place of naked demagogue. The severe compromise of Parliament is a sight to behold.

    The judicial system which is suppose to be independent has cause the nation a huge embarrassment by siding with the government agreeing not to have local government elections. A young man stood up to the mischief of a balisier house judge’s, judgement and took the case to the Privy council where they issued a stern rebuke to Rowley telling him he have to have elections. But why did it have to go so far? Only Rowley could answer that. Given the inconsistencies of the last election, the Opposition Leader once again appealed for Foreign Observers, the request is promptly rejected by the Prime Minister. The lil dictator continues to propagate a culture of arrogance never seen before in the history of TnT.

    The EBC has been contaminated by the balisier brigade when the niece of an avowed racist member of Parliament was appointed to be the head of that department. This minister is known to have said “Indians have their knee over the neck of black people”. The list of PNM crimes against democracy is long and growing. Complicit in all of this is a PNM friendly media, covering the sins of the PNM. But as my dear father used to tell me “son the longest rope have an end”…We look forward to a sudden end.

  2. The PNM knows how to “win” elections. They have mastered the art since the 1956 election. From fixing the boundaries to having a higher concentration of seats in urban areas to moving polling stations to ensure a positive result in their favour.

    Throughout their five years in office “treasury empty”, “we don’t have money to pay workers”, “ they defund Opposition held corporations, but ensure their corporations wallow in the fat flowing from the empty treasury. In the last General Election billions suddenly appeared, because their playbook is simple. Just before elections, fix roads, schools and other areas of neglect, then give $10,000—$20,000 grants in marginal areas. Who is going to vote against a party that gives them money?

    The long term strategy of the PNM is to build housing and convert marginal seats into safe seats. They did this successfully in St.Joseph, where Vasant was winning until the Mount D’or vote started coming in… They shifted polling stations in Sando to ensure a big win. Sometimes voters show up at a polling station only to be told they have to go to another polling station.

    The strategy for their elections has been to buy up all spots on television when people are tuned in to ensure they get maximum viewing. The UNC election official in charge of the 2015 election told the supporters in the heat of an election days before the election to take a day off and go back to your constituencies. Very poor strategy. They also waited too long to put candidates in constituencies.

    The PNM will call this election the week after emancipation day.[my guess] They have read Kamla playbook and worked out strategies to entice her to attack their bald head leaders (Camille and Rowley). This enticement comes with provocative comments from the bully platform. The race card will be used in the last week of the campaign, it ensures their supporters don’t shift loyalty. Of course Kamla will fall for it… but let me encourage her to not deviate from the course of performance beats old talk… and to watch her language.

    1. Mamoo you are probably among the most informed contributors on this post and your comments on why the PNM wins elections are 100 % correct. Unfortunately the alternative is a poor choice. It is my view that the UNC party is run by a bunch of petty copycat idiots who have no sense of strategic thinking.
      They lost the 2015 election the moment Gary Griffith was fired and alienated all his supporters in the East West corridor. To compound matters they ran a negative “No Rowley campaign” with some cock and bull stories about him being a rapist etc instead of focusing on what they accomplished in their 5 years in office. I recall the elections were delayed and there were other controversies.

      2020 was close but as usual they lost for some of the reasons you mentioned and other stupid decisions like getting rid of Gypsy.

      The writing is already on the wall for 2025. I see some of the County Councillors are already jumping ship, and the ‘Sad Sack’ UNC management are saying “Oh, we have hundreds of replacements” When you abandon your longtime friends for some “Johnny come lately” strangers it shows you to be a disloyal individual and no one want to associate with you.

      Prepare for some more rats jumping ship soon.

Comments are closed.