‘Democracy-Strengthening’ PR An Abject Disaster

By Stephen Kangal
November 19, 2013

Stephen KangalIt is now patently clear that the mathematically-challenged eleventh hour imposition of the hapless PR formula based on the infamous 25% threshold without undertaking the requisite public consultations by the PPG has crystallized into a pure, unmitigated electoral disaster that back-fired big time. It consigned thousands of burgesses/ electoral districts to be without representation in their respective local government councils.

I live within the precincts of the Tunapuna- Piarco Regional Corporation. It was formerly under the control of the PP. In the 2013 LGE the COP and ILP combined received 36,081 votes while the PNM 37,888. The PR formula allocated to the latter all the four aldermen; to the former none. Is this the much-touted strengthening of democracy and making every vote count as espoused by the piloting Minister in his parliamentary justification/ deception and of which he is now still crowing as a success?

The same monopoly will obtain in the corporations of Diego Martin, San Juan/Laventille, Point Fortin and the cities of Arima and Port of Spain. Here we will have essentially one-party PNM dominion and control with its traditional exclusive approach to governance and provision of services. When one looks at the selection of the 37 aldermen by the PNM it is business as usual. The PNM had an excellent opportunity to contribute to the requisite inclusive ethnic and geographic balance in these councils to compensate for and mitigate the prevalence of its elected Afro-councilors consistent with the balanced approach previously adopted by the PPG.

One must also note and debunk the vote-splitting myth being perpetrated ad nauseam by the PP since the ILP received more votes than the PP in Tunapuna- Piarco, Chaguanas, Arima, Point Fortin and Diego Martin Corporations. Only about 20,000 votes separate the two parties although the UNC has control of five corporations and 14 aldermen to the ILP’s five aldermen only. It was this brand of inequity and electoral injustice that the abbreviated PR system was intended to circumvent and correct to achieve-broadly based local governance and genuine democracy except for the intervention of the notorious 25% threshold that placed a spoke in the wheels of justice and fair governance in a diverse and politically demanding society such as ours.

Readers can judge for themselves whether the following statement made by the Honourable Prime Minister makes sense:

“…I am very happy with the entire process, the entire exercise that took place, an exercise in democracy. For the first time you are seeing now the voices of minorities would be represented on corporations because of the legislation we have passed relating to appointment of aldermen,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She said proportional representation worked exactly as it was “envisaged”.

2 Responses to “‘Democracy-Strengthening’ PR An Abject Disaster”


  • If your prime minister said “proportional representation worked exactly as it was “envisaged””. Then who are you to say that it didnt work? You said in part, “The PNM had an excellent opportunity to contribute to the requisite inclusive ethnic and geographic balance in these councils to compensate for and mitigate the prevalence of its elected Afro-councilors consistent with the balanced approach previously adopted by the PPG.” There is some ambiguity in this statement but if it is intended to suggest that the PNM only posted “Afro councillors” and did not embrace an opportunity to run the campaign with a more ethnically balanced bunch then democracy is not what you are seeking. The fact that the same was not expected for the UNC in its winning districts shows that there is a lack of sincerity of purpose in furthering the cause of democracy. In fact you are saying that it is democracy when the UNC is triumphant but polarising when the PNM wins with an ethnic group that forms the core of it’s base. This kind of twisted talk is not surprising. It is the same reason why the PPP is unable to generate true national sentiments for governmental policies that embrace the good of all citizens regardless of ethnicity. If and when the UNC were to propagate policies that reflect true nationalism, it will be elevating its stature beyond the boundaries of race or ethnicity.
    It is cliche to tag the PNM with the racial stigma attributed to its governance, when reality shows that all members of society actually benefit. It is the reason why, even in its staunchest
    electoral reigns the policies enacted by the PNM a greater number of people other than its supporters benefitted from them. Fact is they were open and honest. The LGE with the PR ingredient was not meant for the benefit of the PNM or the ILP. It’s intended purpose was to concrete the inroads and gains that propelled the UNC into a tighter grip on electoral governance than it got in 2010. This obviously backfired and Kamla was left with eggs on her face. Because she threw PR into the electoral stew she now cannot say it did’nt work, she has to stand by her tricks.

  • The PNM has traditionally been an exclusive government and is now pandering and wooing the Indian community because of the imperative of demographics for the first time, and in this context ought to have done what I said since the PPG has done it at the critical central government level. This to break the chains of ethno-nationalism and let all the threads become part of the fabric of caring governance.

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