On Friday, the Elections and Boundaries Commission released the official results of the election stating that the UNC won 180,758 votes to the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) 174,754 votes.
Lee said the UNC gained more support compared to the last local government election in 2013, increasing their votes by 48 percent, while the PNM slipped by eight or nine percent.
However, speaking to members of the media after an HDC Housing key distribution ceremony at the Government Campus Plaza in Port-of-Spain yesterday, PNM Public Relations Officer, Stuart Young, dismissed the achievement, saying the UNC simply gained Independent Liberal Party (ILP) supporters. “What you have to remember is that, when we look to the 2013 figures, you’re dealing with a third party. You’re dealing with ILP. What it seems has happen is it gained the majority of the ILP voter base. But what we in the PNM think is significant for us is when we look at it, we managed still to hold on to those who voted for us in 2013,” he said.
Young also said while the PNM and UNC tied 4 - 4 in the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, the PNM won the popular vote in that district.
Lee added that in the six corporations the party retained, there was a “higher than normal” voter turnout while voter turnout in the PNM-controlled corporations was much lower. “One has to ask, are the people of the PNM controlled corporations they dissatisfied with their own government? I believe it shows that people are dissatisfied with how the PNM has been running this country for the past 15 months,” he said.
Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, political scientist and University of the West Indies lecturer, had similar thoughts.
He said the low voter turnout of 34.34 percent showed that the country’s political parties have a lot of work to do. “The voter turnout is an indictment against all the parties who contested, clearly telling them that they are not dealing with the issues that people are really concerned about,” he said.
Ragoonath believes the PNM’s performance, particularly in the Diego Martin, Port-of-Spain and San Juan/Laventille areas, “left a lot to be desired”. He noted that less than 25 percent of voters came out in those PNM-controlled areas and they voted for both the PNM and UNC. This, he said, showed that “something is drastically wrong in those districts” and that people were looking for good governance.
“I believe the message that the PNM was giving was still focussed on trying to suggest that the previous administration was corrupt and should not be given a chance rather than the real local government issues,” he said.
He added that the low turn out, and the middle class and public sector workers not voting for PNM, could be considered the “riot” that Finance Minister Colm Imbert said did not occur when he reduced gas subsidies.
However, political analyst Dr Winford James had another take on the results.
He told Sunday Newsday the results indicated that the election was “more or less a race-based stalemate” between the PNM and the UNC; that the country had reverted to a two-party nation; and that there was need for local government reform.
“The most interesting thing is that there is no third force. There is no party that so performed so as to give the impression that they could unseat either the PNM or UNC in terms of support. The other parties don’t come up to much. The score is negligible,” he said.