Following the Local Government Election, there has been an outpouring of commendations and support heaped upon me by persons who were finally able to express their democratic duty, some five months after the election was officially due. While I’m appreciative of the support I have been receiving, there are some people conflating my victory in the courts with the victory of the UNC in the polls and I want to be pellucidly clear that the two are in no way related. While it was my absolute pleasure ensuring that the democratic processes of this nation were kept intact, I played absolutely no role whatsoever in the results of the election and the handed defeat that the PNM received by the UNC. This victory belongs entirely to Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar and her team who have been steadily growing the UNC and its support over the past five years, and who have worked extremely hard in securing the majority of Local Government burgesses in this election.
And this is what I want to discuss after the preliminary report of the EBC was published this week, as there have been many declarations and insinuations as to who and what caused the results that were produced. Starting with the many alliances and accommodations that were announced during the course of the campaign, while the attention of these stories remained focused on the UNC/NTA/Jack Warner coalition, many might have forgotten that it was the PNM who first began announcing the individuals they poached from other parties. While much fanfare had been placed on the calibre of the persons who were jumping ship to join the PNM party prior to the election, the results show that all but one of them was able to actually retain their seats in the final tally. But more than that is the fact that the decline in both voters and burgesses for the PNM after these alliances were made means that their supporters were neither interested in the core group nor the new crop of candidates that they had to offer.
In terms of the UNC / NTA alliance, however, the results are much more interesting. Because while both the PNM and UNC saw a decline in the number of votes each party received from the 2019 election, a by-product of the reduction of votes tallied overall, the NTA increased the number of votes received by the UNC from 2019 in the districts they contested. In 2023, the NTA fielded candidates for thirty-one burgesses and received a total of 15,997 votes, whereas in 2019 when the UNC contested those same burgesses they received a total of 13,177 votes. This represents a net growth of 2,820 votes across the thirty-one districts which the NTA contested. And I imagine that it was the sight of these figures that prompted the Political Leader of the NTA to proclaim that they were the official third party in the political landscape of this country.
HOWEVER, there is an obvious logical flaw that both Gary Griffith and some armchair commentators are conveniently overlooking, which is that within that total number of votes, 15,997, exists those who voted for the NTA out of allegiance to the UNC. Even if we were to apply the average percentage loss that the UNC suffered in this election to those thirty-one districts (8.15%), to extrapolate the number of UNC voters in the 2023 election who would have voted for the NTA, which would be 12,103 votes, then the remaining 3,894 votes would represent the sum total support that the NTA would have been able to attract on its own accord in those thirty-one districts. While this figure is nothing to scoff at, it does put into perspective the real value that the NTA brought to the alliance with the UNC.
The reason this is important to understand now is because of what it means for the alliance going forward, most notably because this marked increase combined with the sharp decrease in PNM votes still wasn’t sufficient to secure any victories for the NTA in this election. What makes this more interesting is that the UNC was able to pick up a number of districts to surpass the PNM as the majority shareholder of local government burgesses in Trinidad, even though they didn’t receive the same uptick from NTA votes in their districts, as the NTA did in theirs. What this demonstrates is that even with the UNC’s support, the NTA has not attracted the number of votes necessary to compete with the PNM, whereas the UNC is able to easily defeat the PNM on their own bereft of NTA support.
Of course, this isn’t meant to deride or disparage the UNC / NTA alliance in any way, but without the benefit of analysis and perspective, it’s easy for anyone to get carried away on the spectacle of raw data as it has been presented so far. While it is important for all parties to unite in order to present any change in the governance of this country, it is also important to appraise the value that each party brings to the table.
During the campaign, there was some discussion about the fact that the UNC wouldn’t be fielding candidates in all 141 burgesses as a result of the NTA accommodation, while the PNM has always contested the entirety of districts, so it’s funny now to see that despite fielding fewer candidates than the PNM, the UNC still won more districts overall. As such, while there has been much debate over which party is the undisputed victor in this election, there can be no argument that the PNM is the biggest loser. Not only have they lost the largest amount of votes and burgesses, but the fact that they nominated thirty-one more candidates than the UNC means that they also have an additional thirty-one losing candidates.
Understanding all of this makes it easy to understand why the Prime Minister so abruptly absconded to Barbados on “important business” this morning, as I’m sure he will have greater privacy while playing golf this entire weekend. This remains in stark contrast with the UNC whose Parliamentarians and Councillors remain committed to the jobs they were elected to perform, and it is this service which will ensure that they are returned to government in 2025.
Ravi Balgobin Maharaj
Mob: +1 868 476-6181