The findings of an ongoing tracking opinion poll being conducted by Dr Vishnu Bisram for the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) on local government elections 2023 puts PPP way out in front of the opposition PNC (APNU). Other opposition aspirants (entities) including independents have very little support. The election is being contested mainly between the PPP and PNC (APNU). As surmised in earlier NACTA polls, the PNC is not fielding candidates everywhere, handing a no-contest PPP victory in many seats — some 13 local areas and 291 seats altogether inclusive of uncontested seats in other areas. The poll finds PNC (APNU) struggling in its traditional strongholds including Georgetown to fend off stiff challenges from the PPP which is making gains in every NDC and municipality held by the PNC.
The ten municipalities and seventy NDCs have varying number of seats depending on population size. Each has two types of seats — equally divided into constituency (first past the post) and Proportional Representation (or top up) seats.
The present poll conducted by Dr Bisram is consistent with earlier tracking polls that he did that had the PPP winning a landslide victory. Based on filed nominations, PPP has already won several NDCs as it was the only party to field candidates in them. In several other NDCs and municipalities, it has also won seats because there are no opponents. The PPP is the only party fielding candidates in all seats and all municipalities and NDCs. In total, the PPP has already won 291 seats in the local governments because of a lack of an opposition.
The poll reveals voters are racially polarized — Indians voting PPP and not for PNC. PPP has also attracted sone African votes. PPP has made gains everywhere including in PNC strongholds. The poll finds racial (African) cross over support to the PPP but virtually none (Indian) towards the PNC. Thus, PPP is expected to win seats previously held (2016 and 2018) by PNC. However, the PPP still trails in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Linden, Mahdia, and Bartica. The PPP is winning large majorities in other municipalities and in an overwhelming majority of NDCs.
Local government elections are constitutionally held every three years. The last LGE was in 2018. Elections were due in late 2021 but was put off because of the Covid epidemic and personnel issues (missing CEO) in Gecom and lack of an updated voters list. The local elections were delayed to now in order to hire a CEO and deputy CEO and to fix the voters list and hire and train personnel to conduct the elections.
The PPP is seeking its third consecutive victory and the PNC’s its first since local elections re-appeared in 2016, 22 years after it was held in 1994. This local election follows the March 2020 general elections in which the PPP was returned to power in August 2020 after five months hiatus and after more than five years of coalition APNU-AFC rule.
Almost everyone polled said the PPP will win the local elections in terms of garnering a greater proportion of local authority areas (LAAs), seats, and total votes received. Voters also feel that the PNC (APNU) will likely retain municipalities it currently is defending but with a reduced majority of seats. The poll finds several constituency seats in these five municipalities are very close and can go either way.
In terms of preference for a party to govern them locally, the PPP is preferred over PNC (APNU) in an overwhelming majority of LAAs. The AFC is not contesting the local elections. And the PNC (APNU) is not contesting everywhere. Thus, it is difficult to report on popular support for each of the parties. But overall, PPP leads PNC by over 25 percentage points in support for LGE. In areas where the two major parties contest, it is a competitive battle.
The biggest hurdle for the PNC seems to be leadership; party supporters lack faith and confidence in their leader and prefer someone else, suggesting the party would do much better if it has a more likeable leader like Roysdale Forde or Amanza Walton-Desir or Volda Lawrence. Among all respondents, asked who they prefer as President, incumbent Irfaan Ali is overwhelmingly preferred over Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton. Ali also has higher favorability and likeability ratings and extremely high job approval ratings. The findings of the survey also reveal that the PPP’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Prime Minister Mark Phillips are also more likeable and popular than Norton. The PNC and Opposition Leader also trails several of his colleagues (Roysdale Forde, Amanza Walton-Desir, Volda Lawrence, among others) and outsider Nigel Hughes in favorability and likeability ratings.
It must be emphasised that opinion polls in general is only a reflection of support at a particular time. Surveys also have margin of errors. The current poll has a margin of error of 4%. Frequently repeating a survey over a long period of time may help to reduce the margins of error. Also, polls conducted around the same time should have similar results. It is not known if other polls are being conducted.