Winners and Losers of Local Government Elections 2013

So the final(?) tally from yesterday’s local government elections give the People’s National Movement (PNM) control of seven regional corporations, the United National Congress (UNC) keeps control of 5, one draw in Chaguanas, and one to be decided (Point Fortin, which would probably go to the PNM). The Congress of the People (COP) and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) got no corporations. This gives the PNM a good win over the ruling People’s Partnership (PP).

The PNM winning the majority of corporations was not surprise to me. The PNM as I see it is under new management and may be making in-roads of regaining trust of the electorate. Many commented that Rowley’s demeanour was calm, and unlike of someone who just decisively won an election, but I can understand his mood. He had to have known that this win was probably more from serendipity than by any strategy or tactic. It was the split votes between the UNC/COP and the IPL that ensure the PNM’s success. If I was Rowley, I would take a look at the elections and determine how best to continue to grow the momentum.

I was surprised by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement that “We did not lose,” and this was a “People’s victory.” It was either that she was delusional, or that the objective of this election was not to win. I think it’s both. While it may be everyone’s opinion that KPB is clueless, I also believe that the objective of this local government election was to prevent Jack Warner’s ILP from winning. And they achieved that, so they are happy. It goes to show the loser politics being played out.

What was even more surprising was the ILP not winning more seats. With the amount of money being spent, and the gatherings, rallies, and commentary on social media, I was lead to believe that the ILP was doing well. I was wrong. It did bring me a certain joy that the people of Trinidad are not as naive and hoodwinked as I believed, unlike those folks in Chaguanas East. I won’t rule out the ILP just yet. JW did not survive in FIFA all that time by luck; he’s a brilliant strategist and may have other tricks up his sleeve. Too bad he never used his skill for pure good.

The COP losing their seats and control was unsurprising to say the least. Now, they have no voice, and off even less leverage against the UNC in the PP Government. Voters have realised that they are a spineless bunch, and that all their talk of change and new politics was just rubbish. They now have little place in the future of the political landscape and will now wither into nothingness. I don’t believe that even a change in leadership can help them now.

If we should take anything from the elections yesterday was that only around 25% of the registered voters turned out to vote. While turnout for local government elections is usually low, there was a 39% turnout in 2010, 38% turnout in 2003 and 39% in 1999. Therefore, yesterday’s election saw the lowest turnout in a little more than a decade. This is evidence of a disenfranchised population. What can you expect when you are forced to vote for the lesser of evils?

I hope that things will get better, but the cynical part of me knows otherwise.

So the real winners and losers of this election? Well the losers are the people for certain, with no real choice, we only have the illusion of democracy.

The winners? The media houses and their massive windfall of campaign money.

Going TOPless in Tobago

Tobago 34 by Abeeeer, on Flickr

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Elections were held on Monday 21st January, 2013, and the People’s National Movement (PNM) won all twelve seats, eliminating the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) as a political force in the island state of the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Back in the May 2010 general elections, the Tobago people voted for TOP and voted out the PNM. Now 2 ½ years later, the people have gone back to the PNM.

Why did they do that? What changed so much that they went back to the PNM, and not just went back, but went back in droves, winning every seat?

My opinion is that nothing changed.

The Peoples Partnership (PP), was a coalition party made up of the five political parties – the United National Congress (UNC), the Congress of the People (COP), the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and the TOP; the MSJ later left the coalition due to irreconcilable differences. The majority member is the UNC.

When the PP won the elections, they did so on a mantra of change, along with “we will rise”. However, after the PP took office, many soon realised that change meant a change in government, but not a change in operation. The corruption and the mal governance continued, as “misstep” after “misstep” was made.

In short, the only thing changed was the Government, nothing else did.

So nothing changed.

Tobago people saw this. The PP had two years to prove that they would change the way the country was governed, and they didn’t. So how could you lead the THA election campaign on change when you have proven that you cannot do it?

While people would insist that PNM won this election based on race and racial fears, I would strongly disagree. While I admit that there does exist a level of racial prejudice in the country, the majority of us have never let that get in our way and we’ve embraced our racial diversity. I’ve certainly never felt anything like that in Tobago, and I’ve driven all over there. Instead, we should be looking at the PP as they seem to be driving further divisiveness in the country, especially when Jack Warner opens his mouth with racial and religious statements.

Many are saying that this is a wake up call for the PP; it is, but I hardly expect a change in the way they do business. The corrupt culture is so engrained within their psyche that it will be impossible to remove. The only thing we can do is to vote them out in the 2015 elections. But vote for who? Is there really a better alternative.

Back in 2010 the people were ready for change, we accepted that it must happen. Tobago people wanted that too, that’s why they voted for the TOP. This time around they are back to the PNM. To them, it was best to stay with the Devil you know rather than the Devil you don’t.

And this, I believe, is the saddest part of it all – we do not have a feasible alternative for good governance – and it’s a poor reflection on us as a country.