ONE of the most telling details of the local government elections was the one that was least known. The fact that business people are entitled to vote twice – once for where they reside and once for where their business is located, assuming the locations differ – was not generally known to the population. So much so that even political party candidates and senior officials who have extensive electioneering machinery in place were ignorant of the fact.
The lack of knowledge spoke to the need for greater public education by the Elections and Boundaries Commission. And it also indicated the generally tepid interest in local government affairs more generally.
That lack of interest, reflected by the low turnout, contrasted sharply with the activities of all the parties that contested the election as they sought to effectively launch their bid for power ahead of the general election due next year.
It is notable that while considerable time and resources were expended to heat up the race, the thermometer did not budge in any significant way in terms of voter turnout, which remained within traditional bounds according to preliminary figures.
But what’s important, however, is that the people have spoken, both in terms of the final result and in terms of the number of people who exercised their right to vote.
As usual, both the PNM and the UNC have claimed victory. And for once they are both actually justified in doing so given the seven-seven tie.
The PNM cites overall seat numbers in claiming an outright victory but cannot ignore the fact that it lost ground when compared to the last election and that it ceded individual seats to the UNC.
Given that we must presume political parties have finite resources with which to contest elections, there will be some who will now pay careful attention to the state of the PNM war chest ahead of 2020 given the expenditure levels involved in this campaign as well as the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly elections.
At the same time, the UNC has clearly gained ground by wresting Sangre Grande and some new seats. The party claims to have won the popular vote, a fact that would suggest a clear turn. Even if this is so, the implications for 2020 are not clear under the first-past-the-post system.
Evidently, the PNM’s concerns about scandals such as Cambridge Analytica have not resonated as much with voters as party officials hoped. Similarly, the UNC’s dreams of being catapulted to outright victory by the Marlene McDonald scandal as well as the economy did not materialise.
In the end, voters have registered some disaffection with the ruling party while holding back on a complete endorsement of others. These results now put an even greater onus on all ahead of the big race come 2020.