Monday, March 2, 2015
Certainly if you read The Trinidad Express newspaper the answer to the question in the title of this post will be an unequivocal 'yes'. And if you talk to the "intelligentsia" in Port of Spain you will also get the same answer. And don't talk about the many "talk show hosts" (and that last is in inverted commas deliberately, for the drivel that tries to pass for discussion ... not even pretending to be intelligent discussion can make you want to pull your hair out in frustration over the daily stupidity that does not even seem to understand the basic dictionary definition of analysis)! They will point to the many, many scandals that have rocked the People's Partnership Government almost from day one. They will say things like "there has never been a government as corrupt as this one" and they will say that the Government has done just about nothing in the last almost five years. They will point to the apparent instability in the Government in the way that Ministers have been fired and forced out of office and they will also say that support for the PP Government has withered on the vine and that the obvious death of the COP is bad news for the Partnership/UNC.
And there's ... good grief!! ... the possibility of a third force coming out to capture all those disillusioned voters and playing spoiler in the coming showdown.
Well, not so fast.
First of all, despite the views of the Express, its columnists and the radio "talk show hosts" there is still a tremendous amount of support for the Partnership, especially outside of Port of Spain. The Government has been doing a tremendous amount of work outside of the precincts of the capitol city and a lot of people have benefitted and will benefit from the many projects which are as diverse as the Point Fortin highway and the Couva Children's Hospital ... both of which are scheduled to come on stream later this year.
Put another way, outside of Port of Spain people are seeing with their own eyes all of the work that the Government has done.
Further, people tend to say "I feel that the Government will win/lose" as the case may be. But if you look at the actual results of the last elections you will realize that for the UNC to lose Government there will have to be a huge swing against the Government of more than twenty percent nation wide. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that (a) the Government has lost popularity and that (b) it is going to lose some seats. Take a look at the seats that I believe the Government will lose and note the vote difference in the last elections:
Seat 2010 Winner Amount of winning votes Amount of losing votes
Arima Rodger Samuel (COP) 7612 7241
San Fernando Carolyn Seepersad- 9,111 7,810
West Bachan (COP)
Toco/Sangre Rupert Griffith (UNC) 7,491 7,285
Tunapuna Winston Dookeran (COP) 10,543 8,005
Barataria/ Fuad Khan (UNC) 10,850 6,742
Lopinot/Bon Lincoln Douglas (COP) 9,279 8,222
Pointe-A- Errol McLeod 10,972 6,685
In other words, there are seven vulnerable UNC/PP seats. Let us for the sake of argument "give" these seven seats to the PNM in the next election. That still leaves the UNC/PP with 21 seats; a bare majority (the 'magic' figure is twenty-one) but a majority nonetheless! (For the sake of argument I have "given" the marginal seat of St. Joseph which was won by the PNM in a recent by-election back to the PNM ... although I would be the first to admit that this is debatable). And this does not take account of the fact that there are several vulnerable PNM seats. For example, I am sure that you will be surprised to learn that Paula Gopee-Scoon won the Point Fortin seat with 8,885 votes to 7,959 ... a bare majority of a little more than 900 votes. Now, if the Point Fortin Highway comes on stream before the elections the serious question arises as to whether or not that will make a difference to the voters in that constituency. Also, did you know that Keith Rowley won his seat by a little over 700 votes the last time around (8,777 to 8,023)?
The last cabinet reshuffle hasn't hurt the PP Government nearly as badly as the opponents of the UNC would like you to believe. For example, Ms. Dyer-Griffith, the former COP Chairman, is upset by (amongst other things) the removal of Timothy Hamel-Smith as President of the Senate. But, (and it is a big "but") his replacement is not just a woman, but a Muslim woman! If that doesn't please the Muslim community it is hard to know what will. In other words, everybody agrees that Mr. Hamel-Smith is a nice guy but in terms of actual votes he would be lucky to bring ten to the table whereas his successor can bring thousands! And that's what politics is all about!!
Finally, the PNM is not without its own problems. Keith Rowley has so far failed to excite non-African voters who still do not understand, for example, why he did not deal more decisively with Hilton Sandy's terribly racist remark during the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly elections about a "Calcutta ship". There are nasty and lingering suspicions as to why he didn't condemn the remark immediately but took a long three days to came out with what many regarded as a lame and half hearted condemnation of this terrible remark. Dr. Rowley also has other skeletons in the closet ranging from the Landate scandal to the latest "wining" episode at Carnival time. He also has some discontent in his own Party to contend with. For example, you can bet that the UNC will make a big issue of his cutting Penny Beckles-Robinson's throat (politically speaking, of course) and blocking her candidacy at the PNM's screening for the Arima seat. (And I know that he didn't say a word at the screening ... he didn't have to; others did it for him.)
Look: a lot can happen between now and election day and it is clear that this coming campaign will be nasty and brutish and that racial passions and prejudices will (most unfortunately) be stirred up by those who ought to know better. A week is a long time in politics and any number can play in the many weeks we have to go before "decision day 2015", but if the elections were to be held today, for all the reasons expressed above, I'ld bet a dollar to your donut that the UNC will win it and form the next Government.
I reserve the right to change my mind, by the way, as the date gets closer. (And that should not surprise you!)
Posted by Robin Montano at 1:10 PM