By Stephen Kangal
November 11, 2013
Being a classic marginal seat, Monday’s St. Joseph Constituency (SJC) bye-election results have encapsulated and mirrored the psycho-political underpinnings of the changing electoral dynamics as well as of the traditional ethnic moorings impacting on and progressively shaping the national political/electoral psyche- a microcosm of the macrocosm.
It is clear from the SJC verdict that the intensity, concatenation and hype of four elections held in ten months made the electorate elections weary and wary. This is reinforced by growing disenchantment with both the tribal appeals issued by UNC and PNM (NOTA) resulting in both a low poll of 52.99% and the NOTA’s vote tally being reduced by 5,000 (UNC) and 1500 (PNM) respectively from the 2010 (67%) vote.
The participation of a third force in the SJC caused the diffusion of the votes that always works to the electoral detriment of the ULF/UNC as happened previously in the recent 2013 LGE and in the General Elections held in 1981 (ONR), 1991 (NAR), 2001 (Team Unity), 2007 (COP) and 2013 (ILP). But as I have written previously, the UNC appears to have little institutional memory of this decimating factor as well as how in 1976 in its previous ULF incarnation as a third force, it replaced the DLP and in 1991(UNC) the NAR.
The results confirm a return to and solidification of traditional political tribal moorings that is the consequence of veiled ethnic appeals targeting the faithful to come home. It back-fired against the incumbent UNC/PP just as the 25% PR did in the LGE. It demonstrates careless impulsive strategizing on their part.
I noticed as well that there emerged a strong correlation between the hype, intensity of the campaigning and frequency of TV advertising and the votes received. The COP in the LGE (32,616) and ILP (1976) in the SJC suffered badly from their inability to afford constructing an expensive and highly intense media-profile in this regard.
SJC like CWC rejected the last minute decanting of infrastructural projects provided by the PPG as an electoral inducement. This inducement had no impact in the SJC bye-election because it violates and ignores the increasing critical and sagacious mind of the national electorate. They regard development works as their entitlement- not as a quid pro quo or bribe for votes or perhaps they are irrevocably tied to PNM ethnic moorings.
It is clear that the voter saturation/disenchantment barometer measuring the negative fall-out from the stage managed polemic/ mud-slinging conducted between the UNC and ILP and played across the national stage was rising to the extent that in SJC it caused voters either not to vote (47.1%) or to gravitate towards the PNM option of least resistance. It also caused the PNM vote to be galvanized.
Candidate credentials did not play a decisive role in voter perception/support because the most suitable and qualified received the least (1976) votes of the top three confirming the persistent culture of overriding party loyalty/cleavages or the “crapaud dressed in a tie” syndrome.
Lastly there has returned the repetition of the PNM emerging traditionally as a minority/plurality of vote receiving winner both in the LGE and the SJC bye-election. It is indicative of the extent to which other party cohesiveness (alliances, partnerships) can easily vanquish the PNM at the polls as shown in 2010 taking into account its restrictive 34% ethnic base.
The SJC results showed and confirmed the thesis that the UNC alone cannot win an East-West Corridor seat and therefore the reins of governance except perhaps St. Augustine. It always needs a sanitizing and image-embellishing partner as the COP provided in 2010.
The disintegration of the PP adversely affected its prospects in the LGE and the SJC bye-election with a weak COP adding to its woes.