Monday, January 26, 2015


Apart from the falling price of oil and gas the subject that is on most people's minds in good old T&T these days is what is going to happen in the coming elections. If you live somewhere in the east/west corridor or in Port of Spain you will be forgiven if you think that PNM will win in a cakewalk. You will be further forgiven for this impression if you read the Express newspaper or watch the TV6 news. (The Express tries very hard to pretend that it is neutral, but the truth is that there is a clear bias in its reporting where it tends to play down stories that are adverse to the PNM and play up stories that are critical of the ruling UNC. Now, there's nothing wrong with that. Frankly, it is part of the guarantee of free speech that is written into the Constitution, and no right thinking person can find fault with that. The problem is that to the undiscerning reader, or a person who does not quite understand the nuances of the skewed reporting, it can create a wrong impression.)

But if you go south of the Caroni River you will find a completely different story. The Government has done a heck of a lot of work in areas of Trinidad that had been ignored for decades and its support in rural communities is stronger than ever. The Ministers have begun to reel off rather impressive statistics of what they have done, which statistics continue to be conveniently ignored by the critics in Port of Spain who want to see an end to the domination of the Indian based/supported Government. Because, let's face it, the voting in Trinidad is by and large race based with the Africans supporting the PNM and the Indians supporting the UNC. The population of the east/west corridor is largely African and south of the Caroni River it is largely Indian. It's hardly surprising, therefore, to find the support for the two Parties splitting the way that it does. Of course, people like to hold themselves out as not being racist and therefore like to pretend that their support of one or the other Party does not depend at all on race but on principle. (Unfortunately, most of the Black intelligentsia supports the PNM and the vice versa is also true of the Indian intelligentsia, thus if not proving the lie to their earnest protestations, certainly would raise questions in the mind of a reasonable visitor from Mars.)

That there are exceptions (on both sides) to this rather sweeping generalization is true, but the exceptions are too few to put the lie to what has been said above.

Which leads us back to square one: the coming general elections. Historically (with the exception of 1986), something like 70 percent of the seats in a Parliamentary election in Trinidad (Tobago with its two seats is a different story) do not change allegiances. What has made the difference in the past and what will make the difference in 2015 will be in the marginals. There are 39 seats in Trinidad up for grabs (plus two in Tobago making a total of 41). PNM will probably win the two Tobago seats  so for the purposes of this post we can leave them out of the equation ... at least for the time being.

If you define a marginal seat as one where the vote difference between winners and losers was not more than 10 percent then you get only eight seats in Trinidad which can be defined as marginal with three of them actually belonging to the PNM!! (They are Diego Martin East, Diego Martin Central and Point Fortin). So, assuming that the PP manages to keep the swing to the PNM below 10 percent it is looking at a one seat majority (21 UNC seats to 20 PNM seats) in the next Parliament.

However, the UNC has been pressing ahead with the highway to Point Fortin despite the best efforts of Dr. Kublalsingh (who has now definitely broken all world records for going on a hunger strike without either food or water for more than something like 170 days) is nearing completion. Most certainly, this highway is going to affect positively the lives of everybody in the area and the Government must be reasonably hoping that this will tip the odds in its favour. (Paula Gopee Scoon won the Point Fortin seat the last time around with 8,885 votes to the UNC candidate's 7,959 ... a bare majority of 926 votes).

There are some seats such as Mayaro which the Express has been trying to promote as marginal, but Winston 'Gypsy' Peters won that particular seat the last time around with 12,846 votes to his PNM challenger's 7,330 (a majority of 5,5516 votes ... a rather comfortable majority).

So, the message here is: continue reading all of the newspapers and pay attention to all of the polls that they publish, but pay attention to the methodology that the polls use and where they are conducted. A poll in San Fernando West (a most marginal seat), for example, will unsurprisingly give the seat to the PNM if the perceived swing to the PNM in Trinidad is accurate. But unless that swing is something in the order of 25 percent or more, put your money (at least for the next week) on the UNC eking out a bare victory. Put another way, the UNC/COP partnership won the last election with 432,086 votes. The PNM garnered 286,165. Do the maths and figure out for yourself what the swing needs to be in order to defeat the Government and install the Opposition PNM. Then check out the marginal seats for yourself.

For better or worse, the numbers don't lie!!

P.S.  For those readers who are interested in the actual figures they are set out below:
           Constituency                    Winner                             Amount of votes of winners and losers
           Arima                                Roger Samuel (COP)        7,612 to 7,241
           D'Abadie/O'Meara            Anil Roberts   (COP)         9,541 to 8,421
           Diego Martin Central        Dr. Amery Browne
                                                                              (PNM)       9,040 to 8,041
           Diego Martin East             Colm Imbert    (PNM)        9,349 to 8,077
           La Horquetta/Talparo        Jairam Seemungal(UNC)    8,712 to 7,633
           Point Fortin                       Paula Gopee Scoon(PNM)   8,885 to 7,959
           Toco/Sangre Grande         Rupert Griffith (UNC)          7,491 to 7,285
            Tunapuna                         Winston Dookeran (COP)     10,513 to 8,005