Cynical Voters in T&T, Electoral Distrust in Guyana

Cynical Voters in T&T, Electoral Distrust in Guyana
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
The findings of the latest opinion poll conducted earlier this month in Trinidad and in March in Guyana by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) reveal that voters are cynical about the politics of their country. In Trinidad, voters display an almost complete disinterest in the politics with a strong current of anti-incumbency whereas in Guyana there is intensive interest in politics relating to the no confidence motion (NCM). As in Trinidad, voters display strong feelings of anti-incumbency.
In Trinidad, the opposition UNC has not presented itself as an attractive alternative to win over the disenchanted and those who have parked up politically. In Guyana, voters view the opposition PPP as a better alternative than the ruling APNY+AFC combined.
Voters in both countries feel their country is not moving in the right direction and express serious concern about rising unemployment, crime, corruption, and inflation. Voters feel corruption has proliferated over the last four years and especially so in Guyana where Minister of government are involved in blatant corrupt acts giving government contracts to family members.
A large majority of voters is dissatisfied with the way their country is being governed. In Trinidad, voters are very worried about the (unexplained) property seizure bill that was approved by parliament last Monday. They are even more perplexed why the opposition supported the bill.
The T&T government gets a failing rating with only 34% approving and 59% disapproving of its overall job performance and 7% not offering an opinion.  However, the government gets good marks for attempts to improve infrastructure. In Guyana, the Granger led administration is not doing much better with disapproval ratings rivaling that of the government of T&T.
Voters in both countries feel the government should be more sympathetic towards fleeing Venezuelans providing them with more assistance without setting up refugee camps that could lead to a dependency syndrome.
In Trinidad, on local governance, almost everyone supports the PNM bill to reform and empower local governments giving each local body powers similar to the Tobago model (self-governance). However, the electorate does not feel parliament will take up matters pertaining to local government reform. They say neither the PNM nor UNC is serious about empowering local authorities. As one voter puts it, “Both sides mamaguy we (fool us) about reforming the politics and empowering the local people, but in the end both sides seek to maintain the status quo and the dominance of the central government”.
Another voter in Trinidad describes the local government reform bill as more “ole talk”. These kinds of characterization of governance and the parties have contributed to increased political apathy and the cynicism that pervades T&T.
In Guyana, neither the government nor the opposition has expressed an interest in empowering local authorities to run their own affairs.
Exhibiting a lack faith in both the ruling PNM and opposition UNC to bring meaningful change in governance, almost half the voters would like to see the rise of a strong third force to challenge the status quo. Among some of the names mentioned for a possible third force are Basdeo Panday, Vasanth Bharath, Mariano Browne, Bhoe Tewarie, Fuad Khan, Jack Warner, and Dr. Amery Browne. Guyana also has dissatisfaction with the political parttes leading to the rise of several new parties competing with the two major parties.
The findings in the poll reveal that if a general election were to be called soon in Trinidad and Tobago, the PNM would defeat the UNC in its current form romping home comfortably retaining its 21 seats in Trinidad and in contention to pick up three more for a total of 24; the two Tobago seats were not polled but likely to remain in PNM hands giving it 26 seats. In the latest survey conducted in the marginal seats of Moruga/Tableand, St. Joseph, and Tunapuna, the PNM is well ahead to retain all three. In earlier surveys conducted in Sangre Grande, LaHorquetta Talparo, and San Fernando West, the PNM was ahead by a mile. Voters complain that the UNC does not have shadow MPs in critical marginal seats that it needs to win. They feel it would take a complete overhaul of the party and a miracle for the UNC to return to office in the next election due by December 2020.
Based on the findings of the poll for the coming local election due by October this year, the status quo will prevail with PNM retaining seven of the 14 boroughs and the UNC five and the other two up for grabs. However, a third force or an accommodation of forces with credible leadership would give both parties a serious run for its money in local and general elections.
In Guyana, whenever an election is held, the PPP is expected to prevail over the APNU+AFC. However, a large majority of voters don’t feel the election will be free and fair. They say steps are being taken to rig the election as happened during PNC rule between 1965 and 1992.
The poll, conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bisram, interviewed voters at random to represent the demographics of the population in both countries.