A tight race for the 41 seats, some commentators say. Other speculators make varied predictions: PNM 21-UNC 20 or 23-18 or 19-22 or 20-20 with Watson “King” Duke “taking the Tobago East seat.”
Few social media warriors, including Vinda Singh and Robin Montano, predict a “landslide” for UNC.
In all, this propaganda-filled election looks unpredictable even with Dr Rowley’s thank you-farewell message last Wednesday.
Some examples of crossover threats come from seven Tobago PNM “elders” moving to Duke’s party, Nafeesa Mohammed strongly into UNC, Harry Partap and son, Collin Partap, surprisingly, into PNM, Winston “Gypsy” Peters bravely as PNM candidate, Peter Taylor supporting UNC, etc, with loyalty questions lingering over Vasant Bharat and Winston Dookeran.
There is Prof Selwyn Cudjoe’s doctrine: “a UNC government better for blacks.”
Meanwhile, tireless David Abdulah, passionate Phillip Alexander, thoughtful Steve Alvarez are still striving to crash the wall. Voters will decide.
Monday night will remind us of SEA results. Some will cry, some will laugh. Two media-commissioned polls put Dr Keith Rowley’s PNM slightly ahead. One (Express, national sample 473 telephone survey) put PNM at 43 per cent, UNC at 38 per cent. The margin of error (4.5 per cent) makes this difference shaky. Another one (Guardian) with six “marginal constituencies” declared, for example, “tight race” in Barataria/San Juan and St Joseph, Tunapuna ahead.” (“random” sample 200 each, error margin six per cent)
This latter poll provided interesting views on candidates. For example, some residents saw the policies of UNC St Joseph candidate Ahloy Hunt as being “over the top,” while being “more caring” than PNM’s Terrence Deyalsingh. The poll also reported “residents complained that Deyalsingh has become too cocky” and “he knows you only when it’s beneficial to him.”
Now, there are polls and polls. Though freedom of speech, do these poll results distort, undermine or contribute positively to voters’ choice of candidates or parties?
Beware of self-serving “Caesar to Caesar” opinion polls and media credibility where the sampling and method are obscure. In any case, with whatever poll, use your critical judgement.
Can polls be used to manipulate political preference with the bandwagon effect? (Who wants to be with a loser?) Or if the bandwagon is missed, will the poll-driven self-fulfilling prophesy interfere? In a time of high uncertainty, the bandwagon effect, especially for the undecided, can help shift support one way or another. Publishing “party X ahead,” for example, with oversized headlines, a week or two before election day could cause an artificial disturbance to the "fair and free election" promise.
Of course, with our ethnically-locked-down voting, poll results will be questioned by some and gleefully accepted by others.
It is also good to know how your fellow citizens are thinking. Whatever, in an election contest, publishing party vs party poll results has great market value. Undecided voters in marginal areas (around 20 per cent), possess a silent hunger for knowing how others think. Political polls satisfy this hunger.
Anyhow, be it snapshot or predictor, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared “the real poll is on election day.”
During the campaign from Port of Spain, La Brea to Tobago, Rowley unleashed a sustained attack against Persad-Bissessar and her ministers with allegations of corruption during her 2010-2015 government. He lists “ten big ones” from the platform, supplemented by 12 innuendo-rich allegations in a full-page advertisement. Even without convictions, these allegations are attempts to provide platform rhetoric and stains on the UNC’s political integrity. Voters will decide.
Persad-Bissessar tried to shake this off by substantial amendments to her electoral line-up. But there’s still some baggage around, Rowley argued. Political perceptions are now the determining factor, not court convictions.
Responding last Sunday, Persad-Bissessar said: “I want to make it very clear. I fired so many ministers on the perception of corruption. I give the commitment to you. I will stamp out corruption wherever I can, where I see it, where I smell, see it, taste it.”
Voters will decide.
The UNC lost in 2015 under a dark cloud of corruption. Her choice and weak monitoring of ministers apparently came to haunt her. If she does win, what types will she put as minister, senators or into high public office?
Her own integrity, or Rowley’s, will be tested when backdoor democracy is exercised after tomorrow.