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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Electors need to exercise an informed vote

Clyde Weatherhead -
Clyde Weatherhead -

Clyde Weatherhead

To paraphrase Kitch’s popular Carnival cooldown tune – the elections are over.

While the music trailers and trucks and the car PA systems are silent; while the motorcades and rallies are in hibernation, the narratives on LGE 2019 roll on. In the absence of full preliminary or final results from the EBC, including the allocation of all Aldermen in the corporations by what is described as an "element of proportional representation" in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral process, claims and counter-claims of victory, speculations and pure mischief are afoot.

On Monday night, as the votes were being counted, what was most apparent was that the two-party political monopoly (some say duopoly) remains dominant in the governance system (electoral and political processes) as they exist.

The PNM-UNC political monopoly survives.

The other parties which fielded candidates in total received less than 1.5 per cent of the votes cast, the MSJ and PPM with 26 and 12 candidates respectively got most of those votes.

Rowley declared – We win! We get more seats (never mind is less seats than they got in 2016)."

Persad-Bissessar declared – We win! We win the popular vote (never mind the popular vote does not really matter in FPTP electoral processes).

And, the corporations won moved from 8:6 to 7:7 – a tie.

So, the latest controversy for the spin doctors on both sides to pounce on is who win?

Of interest was how many of the 1,079,976 electors actually came out to cast their votes in these elections. There were 139 elections in that number of districts (two more than in 2016) in 14 regional corporations. The media were reporting a turn-out of 22-23 per cent, until the EBC said on Tuesday evening, but it was 34.49 per cent, a par score as LGEs go, a mere 0.35 per cent more than 2016.

This meant that a bit more than 65 per cent of the electors were not motivated to come out and stain their fingers in this election for the two-party monopoly. That was significant.

Amid all the "who win" speculation, and while several recounts were proceeding, the EBC issued titled – The Preliminary Results for the 2019 Local Government Elections.

These preliminary results while giving a breakdown of votes cast for each party in these elections did not disclose either the number of the 139 elections (districts) won by which party nor the votes obtained in each.

The most unusual thing about these particular preliminary results was this phrase – “…The United National Congress received the popular vote…”. I don’t recall the EBC ever using that language as the body conducting FPTP electoral processes for over 57 years.

The media, on the other hand, were busy fuelling the PNM-UNC fire with counts of ‘seats’ (sic) and corporations won; “Arima – 7-0, 7-7 Draw” the headlines screamed. This only helped to confuse some citizens who apparently still are not aware of how our electoral system works.

Playing on the ignorance of the workings of the process, a mischievous conspiracy theory was later unleashed with the EBC as its target.

“No UNC votes in Port of Spain, Diego Martin and San Juan-Laventille were counted or recorded” was the claim by at least three social media video propagandists and repeated by several posters.

When I asked in a non-scientific poll on social media, if people believed or disbelieved this story, the answers were instructive.

Of course, there were the usual red or yellow trolls who defended their parties.

The fact that the EBC had already issued the total votes for all parties; the fact that UNC was able to secure an alderman in Diego Martin for the first time since 2010 which was only possible if they got 25 per cent of the votes at least, didn’t raise alarms about the obvious falsehood.

I blame the EBC and the media and the political parties for failing to conduct the political education of the electorate so that people understand the process in which they are asked to participate as their “civic” or “democratic duty, etc.

Political parties are only interested in having voters get them into office by going and staining their fingers for their parties for their self-serving ends. Electors need to exercise an informed vote.

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