Monday’s elections in Trinidad is a toss up based on findings of opinion polls I conducted thru Sunday morning. Neither the African-based PNM nor the Indian-based UNC enjoys an overwhelming advantage. It is a toss up, unpredictable although three other polls give the PNM an overwhelming lead. Another poll is in line with the findings of my poll but with a major difference in the size of the undecided. All the polls have very high ‘undecideds’ (voters who haven’t made up their mind or refuse to say how they will vote) between 12% and 26% with only a day left in the campaign. I found just around 4% undecided in total with one seat showing 7% undecided. There are ways to ferret out voters’ intention without directly asking them the question of how they would vote. It is the view of this writer that people have made up their mind and are unwilling to reveal their choice out of fear of victimization. Race will determine the outcome although disgruntled voters may opt to stay home or vote against the incumbent.
Based on findings thru Sunday morning, the PNM is sitting good in 15 seats, the same number as the UNC. Of the remaining eleven seats, the poll shows UNC is leading in six and PNM in five. But the lead is less 5%, which is also the same number as the margin of error in the poll in popular support except for one seat where the PNM is leading by 7%. So in effect, the eleven seats could go either way. But it is unlikely, though not impossible for UNC to get to 24 seats and quite possible for PNM to get there and even more if turnout in Indian based constituencies is low. Seat wise, it is a hard call.
Currently, the PNM has 23 seats to UNC’s 18. If UNC were to pick up at least three seats and hold its 18, it will form the government with 21. A coalition is not impossible if the small party in Tobago were to snatch one or both seats from the PNM and if the UNC gets 20. One of the Tobago seats is very close with PNM leading.
Nationally, the UNC leads the PNM in popular support by 2%. Kamla Persad Bissessar leads Prime Minister Rowley in approval ratings. In choice for PM, it is neck and neck. In terms of compassion and empathy, Kamla leads 53% to 44%. Some 57% said their lives have not improved from 2015.
The outcome of the election will be decided by turnout which would be affected by Covid and weather. Bad weather will reduce turnout. But the PNM has an effective Election Day machinery that cannot be underestimated. UNC has taken measure to match the PNM although the former seems underfunded while the latter enjoys resource advantages of incumbency.There has been a spike in Covid. That could deter voting especially among the elderly. Many people may also not wish to risk their health for a vote. The youths have not shown much interest in voting except those worried about decline in college grant GATA program. They complained about lack of jobs; that factor could motivate them to come out to cast ballots. Africans have complained about neglect by their party which is in government. Many say they wont vote. If African turnout is high and Indian turnout lower, UNC would lose a seat or two. There is also a silent number of voters who are angry and may not vote – they would influence the outcome. There is an appeal along race lines to vote for your party. It may work to help one of the parties and hurt the other. Nevertheless, this contest is going down to the wire.
It is a high stakes election for both sides and for the leader of both major parties. Whoever loses will mean the end of a political career as both are in their sixties and been around since the 1990s.