A record 1,099,279 persons are registered to vote, with 41 seats up for grabs in an election that is being observed by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Commonwealth missions.
From all indications however, the political pundits are calling what has been a very bruising campaign, a tight race between the two major parties: the incumbent People’s Partnership – a coalition of the United National Congress, the Congress of the People and the National Joint Action Committee – which is seeking a second term in office and the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM). The other major contender is Jack Warner's Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
While the Nigel Henry-led Solution by Simulation (SBS) poll commissioned by the Trinidad Express puts the PNM five per cent ahead of the UNC, most analysts feel that there is no clear front runner and both parties will take it down to the wire.
The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday quotes the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll as refusing to call Monday’s general elections, “saying its research has found a very close race in several seats deemed marginals. St Joseph, Moruga/Tableland and La Horquetta/Talparo are simply too close to call, the pollster indicated.”
“NACTA described the current state of play as an election cliffhanger. “The latest findings reveal very close contests in several of the marginals that will determine the outcome.” It said there are ten marginals or closely fought seats in Trinidad, plus one in Tobago.
“While one or the other of the two major parties, PNM and UNC, is leading in a marginal, it has not sealed the deal as yet with 50 per cent support. Thus, the contest is going down to the wire.”
“It is a high stakes election for both sides and for the leaders of both major parties in what is one of the most politically charged campaigns in recent history,” Newsday says.
According to the NACTA polls ““When the findings of this survey are aggregated with the other tracking polls conducted in July, both parties are safe in 15 seats.” NACTA said both main parties have lost some support. “The UNC has lost support in a few traditional ‘safe’ seats. The PNM has lost support in almost all of its traditional ‘safe’ seats as there is widespread disgruntlement with the performance of the government.”
Newsday quotes the polls as saying “Some 57 per cent of voters said their lives have not improved and almost every business person has complained revenues have been down significantly this year.
“Yet, there isn’t a clear electoral verdict to the outcome days before voting on Monday. It is an election that could go either way with one side gaining momentum in the popular vote nationwide.” NACTA said it is possible for one side to win the popular vote but not win a majority of seats.
“Based on the projections of the aggregate findings of the tracking surveys in the marginals, UNC is still leading in the three (Pointe-a-Pierre, Chaguanas East, and Barataria) it holds while the PNM is leading in three of the six it holds.” Bisram told Newsday the three marginals where the PNM is leading are Tunapuna, Toco/Sangre Grande and San Fernando West.
NACTA said, “Three other seats are almost neck and neck.” Bisram told Newsday these were St Joseph, Moruga/Tableland and La Horquetta/Talparo.
NACTA said, “Lopinot/ Bon Air West is also turning out to be an interesting contest with Jack Warner in the race but PNM is in the lead. In Tobago, updated polling shows a tightening of the race between PNM and PDP with the former still in the lead in both seats.
“An upset cannot be ruled out.”
In the meantime, both the PNM and the UNC are confident of victory.
Rodney Charles, a former UNC PRO told Newsday the party was very confident of winning the three toss-up seats. “We are confident based on our internal polling that we will win Moruga/Tableland, and La Horquetta/Talparo. We’ll win all three (including St Joseph). For us we are most confident we will win.”
He said now it was just a question of getting out the votes on election day. “We always knew they were marginals but we have done the ground work. Our battle has been a ground battle. That is where the PNM has made a mistake. We saw it in the local government election where they were surprised and come Monday evening they will see the effect of a different strategy. We have worked consistently. We have visited homes, we have helped people, notwithstanding our limited resources.”
Charles predicted an electoral backlash against the PNM, over the Petrotrin refinery mothballing, and government’s handling of covid19.
“They thought that by not doing enough covid testing they thought they would hoodwink us that they had the matter in hand. But we always knew the only way you could speak definitively on covid was if you had done five per cent testing of the population.” He said TT’s testing rate lagged behind that of Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia , but in the region was second to to Haiti.
“Their inability by poor management to provide fuel and resources to the TT Coast Guard and maintenance of the vessels has left our borders very open to a whole unregulated situation that could not have worked well for covid,” Charles said.
PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan told Newsday, “Let me give him (Dr Bisram) the assurance that the ones he feels are too close to call, I am calling it for PNM – all three for the PNM.
“I tell him he is not on the ground. I am on the ground. Those he feels are too close to call, from the ground I’m calling all three for the PNM.” Sinanan was very optimistic over the PNM’s chances on the three marginal seats the pollster had said the UNC would take. “Tell him wait and look at the results. Tell him he shouldn’t call them. Wait and he will hear the results all the way from Balisier House wherever he is.
“When we make that rallying cry, clearly it will be a clean sweep for the PNM. Tell him the PNM campaign manager said it is a clean sweep for the PNM. Those seats he cannot call, we will call it for him. They’ll all be in the PNM column. And the ones he suggests will be in the UNC column, you’ll hear us roar from Balisier House when they all come in in the PNM column as well. That’s all I have to say.”
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