By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidd — Trinidadians go to the polls on Monday to vote in the country’s local government elections.
After what some commentators and analysts describe as the most bruising election campaign in a local government election, the people will vote in the municipal elections in a race one pollster say is too close to call.
It was a campaign that saw a whirlwind of allegations and pre-action protocol letters being sent between political parties; the incumbent People’s Partnership coalition and the five-month old Independent Liberal Party (ILP) in the main. Apart from government officials and the ILP’s interim leader Jack Warner being sent such letters, a leading media entity and a reporter were also issued a pre-action protocol letter by the ILP.
The three partners contesting the election from the People’s Partnership coalition are the United National Congress (UNC) led by its political leader and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The UNC is the largest partner in the coalition government. The Congress of the People (COP), led by Prakash Ramadhar, is the second largest partner in the coalition. The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) led by Makandal Daaga, is the smallest.
David Abdulah’s Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is not likely to make an impact in the race, according to political analysts.
The municipal elections, which usually attract little interest, is a lot more intriguing this time around. Analysts say the formation of former government minister Jack Warner’s ILP is what raised the eyebrows and interest level of the population in this election. Warner resigned from the government earlier this year following corruption allegations leveled against him but left the incumbents poorer without him being in the party.
The North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll has shown that the ILP’s resounding success in pulling half the support base of the People’s Partnership coalition is enough to hand the government a defeat at the polls; even losing in some of its strongholds. Defecting supporters from the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) to the ILP is not enough to impact on the PNM negatively on election day. The ILP’s aggressive campaign is said to be helping the PNM at this stage – even in municipalities where it would not normally expect victory the poll revealed.
According to the poll, the PNM’s base remains grounded while the ILP split makes the overall race more complex and too close to call.
The tracking survey done in the last month interviewed 3,300 respondents, with a 5% margin of error and 17% of voters undecided. This voting bloc holds the key to how the election swings on Monday.
This is the third time for the year citizens will be going to the polls. In January, Tobagonians voted in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, which was won by the People’s National Movement (PNM) in a landslide victory that left the opposition Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) with no seats in the assembly.
The second election saw former national security minister Jack Warner inducing a by-election by resigning as the member of parliament for Chaguanas West. He said he wanted the people of that constituency to revalidate him. He won handsomely in the July 29 poll, in what was a UNC heartland district. Both the UNC and TOP are partners in the People’s Partnership coalition government.
Trinidadians will go to the poll for the fourth time on November 4 to elect a new member of parliament for the constituency of St Joseph, after former high court judge and fired government minister Herbert Volney resigned as member of parliament for that district. This race has been predicted by political analysts to be another tight three-way race among the incumbent People’s Partnership coalition, the opposition PNM and new kid on the block, the ILP.