Minority May Decide

By Raffique Shah
October 05, 2014

Raffique ShahPollster Nigel Henry’s projection that the results of the 2015 general elections will likely be a “statistical dead heat” is in keeping with the trend that emerged post-1986, after the PNM lost its electoral supremacy.

Every election since 1991 has been a tight race between the PNM and the UNC in whatever form or combination the latter contested the polls.

In 1991, the PNM under Patrick Manning rebounded to win 20 seats. However, the combined votes of the UNC (151,000, 13 seats) and the NAR (127,000, two seats), was far greater than the PNM’s 234,000. In six of the seats it won, the PNM polled fewer votes than the UNC/NAR, and in four that the UNC won, its votes were fewer than the PNM/NAR.

The 1991 elections signalled the start of close elections: 1995-17-17-2; 2000-19-16-1; 2001-18-18; and 2002-20-16. In 2007, with 41 seats at stake, the emergence of the COP saw a skewed win for the PNM (26-15) that did not reflect the true tale of the tape.

In every instance, five seats in the 36-seat configuration, or eight seats in the 41-seat House, were captured by fewer than 1,000 votes, and often changed hands. Last week, I identified three marginal constituencies—Barataria/San Juan, St Joseph and Tunapuna. To those, add San Fernando West.

So in normal general elections, these four seats would decide which party wins. The question is, will the 2015 elections be routine, in the sense that there are no extraordinary factors impacting the polls?

I mentioned earlier that the PNM in 1986 was grappling with a crash in oil prices which had rocketed in 1974 and given the party immense spending power going into the 1976 and 1981 elections. Dr Eric Williams had enjoyed the largesse, and used it extravagantly to the PNM’s advantage.

George Chambers did not enjoy that luxury. It was he who scrapped the Caroni Racing Complex into which Williams had ploughed $100 million. This action, one of several belt-tightening measures, gave me some personal gratification: I had waged an unrelenting campaign against the race track, using the slogan “houses before horses”.

Outside of the stuttering economy, the PNM’s absolute control of the Afro-Trini votes had taken a body-blow from the events of 1970. While the party won the elections of 1971, 1976 and 1981 handsomely, a close examination of the percentage of the electorate that supported it would show that it was in decline.

It was against that backdrop that the 1986 elections came, and like a hurricane, the NAR swept the PNM from power.

Similar circumstances surrounded the 2010 elections, which were extraordinary in many ways, hence the comprehensive trouncing of the PNM and the political demise of Patrick Manning. As we approach the 2015 elections five years later, what are the factors that are likely to determine the results? Will the race be as close as Henry’s poll suggests?

As I wrote last week, I will not challenge what the pollster projections given his healthy track record. I think he is accurate in assessing the PNM and the Partnership as having just over 30 per cent of the popular vote each, and the “undecided” being a significant 26 per cent. But I raise some pertinent points.

The PNM has little to lose and everything to gain going into the elections. The party will not lose any of the 12 seats it held on to in 2010: anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding himself. I shall not include the 13th seat it now holds, St Joseph, which it won in a by-election last year. That is one the very marginal constituencies that could go either way.

The Partnership has the advantage of incumbency, with which comes control of the Treasury and the power to use state funds to promote itself. A cursory look at the continuing wave of Government advertising, currently a campaign that extols the 2015 budget, is evidence that it will not hesitate to exploit its control of power.

But the coalition faces huge challenges, the most insignificant of which might be the quadruple losses it suffered in as many elections last year. The COP, which brought the critical swing votes from the 20 per cent or so of the electorate that holds the key to power, is all but dead today.

Those people did not trust the UNC. They thought the COP would be the moral compass of the coalition, a role it has not fulfilled what with rampant corruption haunting the Government (I know—bring the evidence—the same refrain we had from Manning, Panday, Williams!), and arrogance the trademark of ministers.

The next elections will be a straight fight between the PNM and the UNC. Forget Jack Warner and his ILP. Jack has had his run, enjoyed his moments of glory. There will be no “run-offs”.

The Partnership might just hold on with a 21-20 win. But even a small swing against it would bring into focus additional marginal constituencies such as Chaguanas East, Mayaro, Pointe-a-Pierre and Princes Town/Tableland.

A minority may well decide for the majority in 2015, making a mockery of Government’s constitutional contortions.

4 Responses to “Minority May Decide”


  • I beg to disagree with you on this one. The PNM 280,000 voters (PNM till ah dead} will come out to stain their finger; the problem here is where the $500 with the jersey, when you come to the meeting and another $500 when the meeting done along with all the free food and drink are going to come from. Clico money is no longer in the mix. But knowing PNM, PNM must have solved this problem already. Anyway the existing power brokers like the PNM was in 2010 are always on the defensive whenever the polls come around. Can they really defend the numerous accusations undoubtedly Rowley and the boys will thunder down on them. Yes it is going to 2010 reverse side in 2015. And PNM is also very good at digging up the dirty and spreading the dirt around (remember what they did to Karl’s ONR). Added to this UNC is not a together party as money and power always hinder their progress. These people God is money and power. They will never learn. Although ordinary indo trinis just like all ah we, fun loving. Its that recalcitrant minority amongst them and the fear and threats they use can away things a bit. But the die has been cast these last five years inside that party. Anyway you really think she could measure up to Mr. Panday? She is lacking plenty experience (how much she was forced to fire in her cabinet?). And last but not least her remaining cabinet looks and smells like a Sunday football pick up side. But as you say the 20% of which I am a part of may be the deciding factor if we choose to come out and vote. And of course the money spinner will need to influence that 20%. Of course the last election turnout was over 60% – that’s when the PNM loses. PNM’s winnings come with a voter turn under 50%. But maybe this time we have reached the crossroads when all hell break loose. Somehow Rowley is not PM material. He lacks that special leadership quality. Yet I think they will win by the default unless a new face like that of Obama shows up in the election race. We all are hoping for real change.

  • All the factors of good governance is there with the PP. Despite facing an arrogant and often sensational leader like Rowley it will be an uphill battle. Since Rowley is from Tobago we can assume those 2 seats would add to the 13 making it 15 sure seats. Sando West would go to them for 16 seats. All they would need is 5 more seats. Can they come within the 5? That is where the floating vote count.

    The PNM will secure its 285,000 votes come hell or high water. Even when they loss the last time that was the number they loss with. Facing a popular leader as the current Prime Minister without any internal descent could see the PP retain its position as leader of the nation. There are many variables in this election but the PP real problem could be the PP. The COP could end up holding the balance of power depending on how the seats are divided. Anyways the PM have the power to call the election and she can choose the timing. To her advantage.

  • “The larger the sample the more accurate the result”(Professor of Statistics)This is not meant to discredit/criticize the pollster;however,one year before an election with 26% of the electorate “undecided” the accuracy of the poll is questionable.There are “several” more polls to be conducted.

    Am I correct to state that the electorate is approximately eight hundred thousand?What percentage of the electorate actually participated?Was this poll conducted by telephone? There are several pertinent questions which must be considered.I will obtain some answers as the week progresses.

  • A former A Level Political science teacher of mine, use to humorously remind us , that, “statistics ,are like a woman’s bikini , it reveals quite a lot, but conceals that which I vital!”
    Maybe our Uncle Shah, similar media pundits, or worst yet, delusional intellectuals, should be forewarned, and not pay too much attention/be too quick to draw erroneous conclusions, from these unrepresented polls, and the manipulators who trot them daily.
    What percentage, and rising , is that authentic swing votes , in our interracial/cross ethnic/multi tribal population? You should know de types Uncle Shah.
    Yep, and they usually would put their fingers in their mouths , then when wet, raise same , high into de air, to see which way de wind is blowing , before deciding which race they represent.
    They are usually distrusted by their Afro Trini segment, of the family, yet despised by the Indo Trini fragments -and we know fully well, the real reasons .
    Hey , speaking of which … is that former weed head MP ,Anil Roberts still alive , or he too was given silence money , to just go away, just like suspect ,female, and child activist /business woman, and , or wannabee Bollywood, Photo shop beauty, ammmmmm… Sacha Singh, who got into an embarrassing ,Grand Bazzar spat, with her once upwardly mobile ,Bramin Hindu Priest,lover -in MP Chandresh Shama, then disappeared off planet earth?

    http://m.guardian.co.tt/news/2014-04-05/opposition-reveals-sacha%E2%80%99s-60000-state-contract

    Seriously though , the decisions by politicians to follow one policy , or another ,can be so complex , that it can cover an entire semester, in one of our educational institutions (Sociological Department) of higher learner to try and decipher same.
    So Uncle Shah felt proud that his ‘Houses before horses,’ mantra worked back in the day when he and , and Basdeo were still party members pals , and maybe he should , no se, but that political faux pas , is water under de Caroni bridge .
    Any political analyst ,worth their salt, would be kidding themselves , if they thought Cambers ,and his PNM ,lost that election- after his surprising elevation to power , by Sir Ellis Clark , over Deputy PMs, Errol Mahabir, and Kamal- simply because of his head in the sand 6% , or nada position, or similar escapist decisions.
    That Sir Ellis ,Presidential decision was the turning point in T&T tribal politics, as Indo Trinis brought ,’lock ,stock, and barrel,’the notion , that African elites, were not keen on ever giving them the real title they always coveted, since White Euro Massa departed -T&T Premiership.
    When Basdeo ,and his bunch , was given the middle finger by the astute Aaah weee bouy, ANR ,after they tried to usurp his ‘1st amongst equals,’ government?
    Well, we know what the diabolical, divisive Baz , and his disgusted agents, did I. return eeeeh? .
    Did anyone mention refugee status ,bogus discrimination cries , and the likes?
    When the ULF, or perhaps it was UNC , was stuck in the rut, behind the old school, non visionary guard Basdeo, a strategy was developed.
    Push a non threatening woman named Kamla to the forefront, find an African leader ,with some cohones to push her , while also willing to use a cricket bat to the heads of the PNM establishment.
    Welcome aboard Jack Warner, and the rest we shall say is history.
    It did not hurt if the hastily contrived PP alliance, was about to take a page out of Obama’s political playbook, and with skillful manipulation of social media ,targeted aspiring , come of age youth voters, unconcerned about PNM past , so called glories.
    In her run up to power , Auntie K was quoted as saying that if the PP is not voted into power in that 2010 elections, “blood will flow in de streets of T&T.”
    Well it’s 2014, and much blood have flowed in the streets -including that of high end, legal luminary , unsolved murder victim ,
    Dana Seethal- with no end in sight.
    Not certain what the war cry ,rallying pronouncements,for both political camps, would be moving forward.
    Let’s hope that good sense prevails, and we don’t see overpriced tanks patrolling our streets , like GAZA, or Bukina Faso.

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