The ongoing tracking poll being conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) finds that the choice of candidates in the UNC’s ‘safe’ constituencies could influence the outcome of the August 10 elections. According to pollster Dr Vishnu Bisram, “Whereas, previously marginal seats determine the outcome of an election, in this election, nominees in seats bordering marginals could influence the latter’s outcome”.
The UNC has selected candidates in seven marginals, one safe seat and challengers for all PNM safe seats. The PNM has completed selection of candidates in the 41 seats. The UNC is due to nominate candidates in remaining sixteen safe seats and others in PNM strongholds.
Votes say that the contest appears to be a battle of youths and inexperience against seasoned, skillful, and well-known (or accomplished) politicians. Voters note that the PNM is going into the election with mostly veterans – some 70% who are being returned or have national profile. The UNC is going into the election with over 70% fresh faces.
The findings of ongoing polls reveal that voters are not very pleased with either party’s candidates in all of the marginals that would determine the outcome of the elections. Voters tell the poll interviewers that quite a few candidates in marginals are a complete turn off and many say they would not vote. Some nominees have national profiles while most are barely known outside of friends and families; some are well liked while others have low approval numbers.
Overall, voters say PNM has more recognized or high profile candidates than the opposition. But readers are cautioned that national profiled candidates don’t necessarily mean they would win seats. For example, three high profile candidates have low approvals. Only one of seven nominees for marginals in the opposition has a national profile and has received widespread approval among voters not only in the constituency being contested but nationally as well. On the ruling side, all but one of seven nominees has national profiles although three have been given low approval numbers and are considered very unpopular by their constituents and would experience close contests. The PNM candidate in Tunapuna, Esmond Forde, has the highest likeable rating among those vying to win the seven marginals. But the challenger David Nakhid also has high likeable ratings and resonating with voters. Jerlean John, who is vying for LaHorquetta/Talparo, has the highest likeable ratings among the opposition candidates in the seven marginals.
The race could very well be determined by the selection of candidates in the UNC’s strongholds (safe seats) bordering the marginals. Since the UNC candidates are not well known, voters feel eminent nominees in bordering seats could give a boost in the marginals. The PNM has high profile candidates in almost all safe seats with some having celebrity status. The selection of Penny Beckles, Brian Manning, Keith Scotland, JW, among others, receive near unanimous approval from the party’s base. Penny has high favorability ratings. Voters say their selection would boost the PNM’s prospect in the marginals. Similar selection of nominees in UNC safe seats could put the PNM against the wall.
Voters endorse the idea of fresh faces in the electoral lineup and give ‘a thumbs up’ to UNC leader Kamla Persad Bissessar for taking this direction. But they say they would like to see in the line up a mixture of veterans (incumbents) and fresh faces of high profile nominees of integrity and who have a proven track record of accomplishments. It is noted that the country is at a dangerous time in its development. The party that wins the election will not have an easy time in government and any opposition would need strong voices in its front bench. Thus, voters are unambiguous that fresh faces alone without competence wont cut.
It is, therefore, important that (all) parties put forward candidates that the population believe has the competence to govern. Voters want candidates who are likeable, honest, and trustworthy and who have professional and national profile. Short of those requirements, turnout would be very low.