The prospect of which party will win the December 2 local government elections is still very much up in the air, and even leading political commentator, Dr Winford James is not venturing a prediction.
"It is too early to predict who might win but things are now going to heat up with the announcement because there is a focus now," he told Sunday Newsday.
However, he believes the People's National Movement (PNM) may have the edge at this point because it is the ruling party.
"The PNM is in government and they will have a head-start on the UNC (United National Congress). Before, the UNC had to be guessing when the local government election would be held."
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the date in the House of Representatives on Friday during Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's reply to government’s 2019-2020 budget.
James said when one looks at social media, one will observe some of the PNM candidates in the local government election are already on the ground in their respective electoral districts.
"I do not know if the UNC has chosen their people already but it is clear that the PNM has,” James said. “That is a reflection of the fact that the PNM are in government and the prime minister is the one who sets the date, and therefore, because he knows that, he could have informed his people."
James added: "Obviously, the party in government will have a head-start and one of the indications that they are prepared is that some of the candidates have already been selected and are asking people to vote for them. I have not seen the same thing where the UNC are concerned or maybe I have not got to where they have publicised their information."
UNC PRO Anita Haynes yesterday confirmed the party has completed its screening of candidates for the election. However, she said it is yet to complete the selection process.
"All corporations have been screened for, but there are still a couple of decisions outstanding. It is in the single digits, the number of persons to be selected," Haynes told Sunday Newsday.
Haynes, who is also a UNC senator, said several of her colleagues in the Upper House, have been accompanying prospective candidates on walkabouts.
"So, where there are three or four persons that may have screened for an electoral district, all of them will come on the walk so they are not disadvantaged. They are aware that the selection is outstanding but they believe in the philosophy of the party and what it represents and so we continue to work as a team."
Haynes expects the UNC leader, Persad-Bissessar, will finalise the decision shortly.
PNM general secretary Foster Cummings, meanwhile, said the party's screening process is expected to be completed today," he said.
"We have completed about 95 per cent of it and today we will complete the others and be ready for Monday with all of our candidates.
The PNM controls eight of the local government bodies while the UNC controls six.
Although they would not have been apprised of the date of the election, James believes the UNC has been doing its homework.
Using Persad-Bissessar's budget response as a gauge, he observed: "She has laid out a programme for government for the next five years. Things that will happen by 2025. So, even though it’s a broad statement that can also cover general elections, the fact of the matter is that the Opposition has been looking at the imminence to elections in the next few months."
He added: "That explains from one perspective the fact that the Opposition Leader's response was a programme of actions that the UNC intends to take if it gets back into government, which means that they are prepared. I think they are prepared. It is just a matter of identifying their people for the Local Government seats."
James believes the upcoming poll is no different from any other election.
"I don't know that one can compare on with the other. Some elections have more energy than others."
He recalled the 2010 general election which propelled the UNC-led People's Partnership into power.
"In that election, Kamla was the product they were marketing and if she had won, she was going to be the first female prime minister and she was going to have an arrangement with labour, NJAC (National Joint Action Committee), Tobago Organisation of the People, COP (Congress of the People). It had a lot of energy in that."
On this occasion, James said the energy may very well come from the fact that the UNC is hoping the electorate votes out the PNM.
"Because if they vote out the PNM, they will vote in, as a consequence, the UNC, not because they like the UNC more. But if they vote against the party that is in power, the party in Opposition will feel they have a good chance."
James said the conversation will likely be about the government's performance since assuming office in 2015, including the retrenchment exercises which were carried out at state-owned Petrotrin, Arcelor Mittal, University of TT, and TSTT.
"These are topics that might energise the population. But we will have to wait to see what the main speakers say on the election platform. It is about how well they sell themselves."