DESPITE public disenchantment over its handling of issues such as crime and the economy, the People’s National Movement (PNM) remains likely to retain government in the 2020 general elections. This was one of the findings of a North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll which was released yesterday.
Three years into its five year term in office, the poll said voters feel the PNM is on course to winning re-election unless the official opposition UNC presents itself as an attractive alternative government in the making. Voters view several United National Congress (UNC) MPs and senators and some other personalities in the front line of the party as “politically too toxic” repelling key support needed to win closely contested seats.
Many opposition supporters feel if the UNC were to re-activate party groups and reform, re-organise, re-brand, re-energise itself, and form a coalition will pose a serious challenge to the PNM. But the poll said UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar faces a most daunting task of “cleansing the political Augean stables, refining the party, and bringing the divided opposition together.”
The poll said if a general election were to be called now “the opposition lacks enough swing in its favour to win” it. An analysis of how respondents voted in 2015 and how they plan to vote now shows the PNM retaining the 23 seats it currently holds and the UNC its 18.
The results of the July by-elections which saw the PNM win Belmont East while the UNC won Barataria, do not suggest a swing in support nationally for the UNC. The poll said the political gain has not been significant enough to win key marginal (swing) seats to capture the national government.
The swing in the UNC favour is short of snatching any seats held by the PNM. The Moruga/Tableland constituency, currently represented in Parliament by PNM MP Dr Lovell Francis, appears the only seat the UNC has the greatest chance of winning in 2020. But, NACTA continued, this depends on the “ the quality of the candidate” the UNC puts forward then.
For either the PNM or UNC to win the next election, they must each win a bare majority of 21. To do this, and that has turned out to be an uphill task as the PNM fortifies its base.
The poll said UNC has not been able to attract enough floating voters to win key marginals such as St. Joseph, Moruga, La Horquetta, Tunapuna, and San Fernando) West now held by the PNM. While the UNC has been unable to turn rising disenchantment with the PNM into political support to win seats, NACTA said the UNC is in jeopardy of losing two of its marginal seats. These seats are Barataria/San Juan and Chaguanas East.
Asked if an election were to be called soon, 47 per cent of respondents said the PNM will win while 40 per cent said the UNC will win. The remaining respondents either said it it will be close or not gave no opinion. A majority of the business and professional classes, in particular, feel the PNM will win. But in terms of actual voter support, both parties are at a statistical dead heat leaving the status quo in place.
The poll also found that a worrying cause of concern for UNC is many of its supporters are losing confidence it can win an election. NACTA said in contrast the PNM’s supporters are self-assured of victory. Many UNC supporters and activists complain that the party machinery is largely dysfunctional in contrast with the PNM party groups that are very active on the ground.
A silver lining for the UNC is the large number of uncommitted voters that available for wooing if the party can get its politics right and if it can attract quality individuals as candidates. But many swing voters say they prefer an alternative to the PNM and UNC. No such alternative is in the offing right now.
The poll also found PNM supporters separately praising the appointments of Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, National Security Minister Stuart Young, and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.