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Sunday 26 January 2020
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LGE: What have we learned?

PAOLO KERNAHAN
PAOLO KERNAHAN

THE 2019 local government elections delivered a seven-seven tie celebrated as a win by both major parties. The PNM and UNC stood on the top podium struggling to grab the trophy from each other. Naturally, the figures and spread of results across the various regions can’t be boiled down to a simple win or loss.

But when supporters show up at your headquarters ready for a party, you don’t very well go and pee in the punch bowl with a complex analysis. Consequently, it became, “We win, allyuh!”

Look, you know what they say, success has many fathers, but failure...failure always has to be running to the courts to collect mun-tay-nance.

As results started aggressively colouring the map yellow, the view of diehard government supporters became even more jaundiced than is usually the case.

In the minds of PNM disciples, there is a refracted reality in which crime is on the decline, and the Government has stabilised the economy, presumably by doing things like late-paying government workers and shutting down Petrotrin.

Still, Prime Minister Rowley was bullish on December 3. Party officials were saying things like they won resoundingly in such strongholds as Diego Martin and Arima. Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

For many voters, though, their realities are completely disconnected from the conversations that dominated the platforms. Retrenched Petrotrin workers can’t go to the bank and tell the loans officers about Cambridge Analytica.

Rushed marijuana legislation was probably cold comfort for families struggling to cope with soaring food prices and dwindling income-earning opportunities. Business owners who had to close their doors are probably not interested in hearing the latest theories about the opposition.

The opposition weighed up their version of victory. They were happy to turn decent inroads into traditional PNM areas into a full-on political redemption. Inevitably, the UNC mantra came up again. Do you know what it is? If Kamla Persad-Bissessar had a middle name, it would probably be “call the elections now.” She was not the only UNC organ grinder cranking out that claptrap.

It’s almost as if the party is so uncomfortable with the idea of winning at the polls they want to wash the taste of victory out of their mouths with another beatdown in a general election.

The Opposition Leader rightly said in many instances the voters wanted to send a message to the PNM. But cusswords folded up in a ballot paper and sent for Dr Rowley isn’t the same thing as a love letter for you!

Analysts, commentators and soothsayers are all saying the same thing – the people have spoken. But what have they said?

Are they saying, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! Or, kick me some more, only this time kick me like a dog that rush yuh! Is their vote a mere function of heredity or just an involuntary reflex like batting an eyelid or batting white rum? As analysts pore over the results more closely, something resembling motivations may emerge.

What have the Government and opposition learned from the results? Is there anything the smaller parties (or vote-splitters as they are derisively called) can take away from their showing?

Former Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing, who let his bucket down in the capital city, pulled back up a bucket load of disappointment. Still, he can appreciate he has a lot of work to do to understand the minds of the voters he tried to swing his way.

How will performance and representation change in the wake of the message sent through the polls? Will they pull up their skinners and deliver on all their lofty promises? Can the Government produce any result that will assuage the rage of the electorate in a meaningful way?

There is something else the Government will have to consider – given the trajectory the country has followed for the past four years, it’s highly unlikely prospects will become appreciably better in 2020. That puts the ruling party in a very tight spot indeed.

The general election in 2020 is going to be a tough slog for both the voters and the political parties. Notwithstanding the deep racial and ideological divides defining our politics, the best we can hope for is that cool heads will prevail.

Experience tells us we can’t expect this of our politicians, so it falls to us the electorate to be levelheaded as we go from the silly season to downright stupid.

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