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Discussing the polls

As I mentioned earlier, I am suspicious of opinion polls with respect to Trinidadian elections. But I am even more suspicious of political commentators. One of the few exceptions is political scientist and columnist Hamid Ghany. The one problem is that he is too much of an academic – when asked about turnout he supplied actual data, and lots of it. It means that sometimes you have to wait a while until he gets to the point of saying “yes, so far turnout is high in Tabaquite”.

He is currently talking about Tobago and the revival of Tobago nationalism. Between 1976 and 2000 the DAC (and later the NAR) dominated politics there, but over the last decade the PNM made gradual inroads, to the point where they now dominate government in Tobago. There has been a rebirth in Tobago nationalism, which may have an impact on the electoral picture tonight.

Ghany suggested that the rebirth of Tobago nationalism was born of a number of things. The proposals for constitutional change left Tobagonians unimpressed. The EBC report increased the number of seats in the country by 5, but none of these were in Tobago. For the first time the smallest seat in Trinidad (San Fernando West) has fewer voters than either seat in Tobago. While Trinidadians are likely to see this as parity, Tobagonians will see this as dilution of their influence electorally.

Finally, Ghany said that some people think that Tobago gets a better deal when its seats are not held by the governing party. When Tobago is controlled by the governing party there is pressure to support that party. When Tobago is controlled by an opposition party there is no such need to toe the line. Some believe that Tobago gets a better deal in a situation like that.

Will this translate into a shift in power? Who knows.

Update: Doesn’t look so.  Preliminary results show the PNM candidates are very far ahead (in Tobago West Callendar has over 1000 votes; the other three parties probably have less than 200 votes between them; in Tobago East Stretch has a big lead).

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