Trinidadians go to the polls after bitter and “brutish” campaign

Trinidadians go to the polls after bitter and “brutish” campaign

campaign over kamla

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday September 7, 2015 – More than a million voters are eligible to cast their ballots when polling stations open at 6 o’clock this morning, following what the chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) described as the “most brutish” campaign he had ever seen.  

Dr. Norbert Masson, who has headed the EBC since 2005 and served as a commissioner for several years prior, lamented yesterday that “the environment created by this election’s electioneering campaign was the most brutish, acrimonious, rampageous and vitriolic that I have witnessed in all my years at the Commission”.

The three-month campaign that preceded today’s general election was marked by allegations and counter-allegations of legal and moral wrongdoings and what Masson said was “obscene expenditure on political advertisements” and “a concentration on matters technological and materialistic [that] has led directly and unfortunately to an almost total abuse of moral and ethical values in practically everything we do”.

But the EBC chairman urged voters not to be bamboozled by the electioneering campaign or the foolish antics of those who should know better.

“As you go to your polling station . . . be strong in your resolve, exercise courage,” he said.

“Go boldly and ignore those who may seek to divert your course of action. Take unto you the whole armour of the Almighty by whatever name. Thus prepared, you need fear no enemy of your intention. May the Mighty Architect guide you in all that is true! Do your duty and vote for the candidate of your own choosing.”

A record 1,099,279 citizens are registered to vote.

Ahead of today’s general elections, polls indicated it would be a close battle between the incumbent People’s Partnership – a coalition of the United National Congress, the Congress of the People and the National Joint Action Committee – which is seeking a second term in office and the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM). The other major contender is the Independent Liberal Party (ILP).

There are 41 seats up for grabs in the election that is being observed by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Commonwealth missions.

Polls close at 6 p.m.

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Trinidad and Tobago goes to the polls as recession looms

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Voters in Trinidad and Tobago go to the polls on Monday in a general election, largely uninformed of a worsening economic outlook. Whoever forms the government on Tuesday – the ruling People’s Partnership (PP) coalition or the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) – will have to face a likely economic recession – something both parties have studiously avoided talking about – along with high levels of crime and a lack of infrastructure.

The twin-island nation, with a history of high voter turnout and blessed with energy resources, is in the midst of infrastructure development and elevated violent crime rooted in drug trafficking.

With population of 1.3 million, nearly 750,000 are expected to cast ballots to elect 41 parliamentary candidates for the next five years.

The governing coalition of four parties led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar is likely to return to office with a very narrow majority, largely on its relatively stronger record of governance and infrastructure development.

Self-proclaimed political kingmaker Jack Warner, now facing extradition to the US to face multiple racketing and corruption charges, appears to have lost his once dominant position in the country and may not even win re-election to parliament after achieving the largest majority support from voters in his constituency for three successive elections.

In the meantime, several challenges remain in the country, especially the growing use of Trinidad as a transshipment hub for drug trafficking by the Mexican and Colombian cartels, which has overshadowed much of the development work on the island.

Persad-Bissessar, 63, assumed office in 2010 as Trinidad and Tobago’s first woman prime minister but, at times, her government has stumbled with corruption scandals and lack of coherent planning.

However, the coalition managed to stabilize the faltering economy and curtail crime but has failed to block drug trafficking and diversify the economy.

Trinidad and Tobago, unlike other Caribbean islands, has better managed institutions and physical infrastructure but the nation has struggled to provide basic amenities to many of its residents.

During Persad-Bissessar’s tenure, access to running water has finally reached four out of five residents from only one in five residents at the start of her administration.

Her administration has worked hard in improving social services and basic amenities to residents and in making the government more transparent.

The prime minster has focused on providing healthcare, especially for children and has built several new hospitals in smaller towns.

Her administration has also ramped up road construction and renovation and extending the highway network.

However, the island remains severely underdeveloped outside the northeast region and much of the southern and western regions remain rural and lack a transportation network.

The PNM, led by 66-year-old geologist Dr Keith Rowley, has strong support in many poor regions in the north.

However, the current opposition party that governed the nation for much of its 53 years of independence has struggled to excite its deep and loyal political base.

Historically, the PNM has enjoyed strong support of people of African descent, which make up about 35 percent of the population in a racially polarized country.

The people of Indian descent have steadily grown from a meager 10 percent to 35 percent of the population in the last five decades and the demographic is finally large and vocal enough to demand access to government services and jobs.

Traditionally, government jobs have gone to people of African descent under PNM rule and people of Indian descent have suffered from the lack of access to government programs.

In the current election campaign, PNM has struggled to offer a clear plan to voters and at times had to defend the party’s spotty track record of development.

Rowley and the PNM have focused on highlighting corruption scandals and mismanagement of the economy under Persad-Bissessar but have failed to offer a viable growth and economic diversification plan for the nation.

Also, the PNM has a weak track record of managing the economy during tough times.

Trinidad and Tobago has relied on its rich deposits of oil and natural gas, and the petrochemical sector to generate 80 percent of export revenues.

In the last 15 years, oil production has steadily declined from 215,000 barrels daily to 81,000 and the natural gas fields discovered in 1999 have been ageing and production has been declining in the last three years as well.

The country remains overly reliant on its energy exports for foreign currency to pay for virtually everything that is consumed on the two islands.

The PNM manifesto has based its spending plan on an average oil price of $80 a barrel and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar is still telling the nation that the price of oil is expected to rise from its current low, neither of which expectation is likely to be realised.

Oil production continues to rise in the US and Brazil, and Egypt has just discovered the largest-ever natural gas deposit. Excess oil and gas production in the US and other nations is only going to depress further the already low energy prices, the only source of foreign exchange for Trinidad and Tobago.

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  • guyaneseonline  On 09/07/2015 at 12:06 pm

    Battle for Opinion Polls in Trinidad Elections 2015

    Editor,
    Over a dozen pollsters (including from Jamaica, Barbados, England, Canada and US) are conducting opinion polls to predict Monday’s general election in Trinidad. Virtually all the polls gave different outcomes. Generally speaking, polls conducted around the same time should produce similar results. But that has not been the case in Trinidad not dissimilar to what happened in the 2007 elections. It is being referred to as the battle of the polls not significantly different from the battle to form the Government in what is a closely contested election based on the findings of a NACTA poll conducted by this writer.

    There are 41 seats with the PP safe in 15 and PNM safe in 16 and ten seats very close that are called marginals. A poll commissioned by the Guardian newspaper puts the Opposition PNM well ahead to win the election leading in virtually all of the marginal seats. A poll commissioned by Express Newspaper puts the race a dead heat with the ruling PP leading by 2% and not offering a projection in seats. Several polls commissioned by the PNM and done by polling organizations from US, Canada and UK put the PNM winning a landslide.

    Similar PP commissioned polls also conducted by different pollsters from US, UK and Canada give the PP a landslide victory. Local pollsters are divided with a few giving a PP and a few giving the PNM a comfortable victory. A UWI conducted poll gives the PP 23/24 seats. The independent NACTA poll finds the PP leading the PNM by 4% in popular support and 21-18 seats with 2 seats. The findings do not rule out a decisive victory (22 to 24 seats) for either party though the findings reveal a hotly contested election. The poll also finds competitive contests in fourteen seats (ten being defended by the PP and four currently held by the PNM) with the former likely to retain seven, neck and neck in two, and losing one to the PNM. The PNM is fending off stiff challenges in four seats and is projected to lose one to the PP.

    The Prime Ministerial contenders, Kamla Persad Bissessar and Dr. Keith Rowley, are safely ensconced in their respective (Indian and African) seats winning by larger majorities than in 2010. NACTA found PP has lost support in several seats making it more hotly contested than in the last general election. One PNM commissioned poll has the PP losing a safe Indian seat. And one PP commissioned poll has the PNM losing two safe African seats. NACTA poll found all three seats remaining in traditional hands as the electorate is not breaking from the tribalized pattern of voting that has been institutionalized since 1956s.

    PNM is confident of wresting a dozen seats from PP and forming the Government. NACTA gives it up to ten of those 12 seats. In 2007, pollsters found Basdeo Panday’s party (UNC) losing all the Indian seats to Winston Dookeran’s COP. NACTA’s poll contradicted those findings awarding all 15 Indian seats to Panday and that was the outcome embarrassing the other pollsters. A similar outcome is possible in the battle of the pollsters.
    Yours truly,
    Vishnu Bisram

  • Sawak Sarju  On 09/07/2015 at 12:10 pm

    Sent from Windows Mail

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