Voter disaffection and a racist political campaign may not have been the main factors affecting voter turnout in Monday’s general election says political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath.
Rather, Ragoonath believes the fear of COVID-19 and the absence of a hyped campaign, because of the pandemic, were the main factors which prevented people from voting.
Speaking to Guardian Media, Ragoonath said, “The low voter turnout was seven per cent lower than what we normally expect. It was something that we projected. We knew there will be a lower than normal turnout simply because of the fears that would have permeated the society related to the COVID 19 virus.”
He added, “Many people would have wanted to go out and vote but some of them didn’t go out because of fears and in other instances, people went out and when they saw the lines and slowness they went back home. This was something we projected. We suspected that this election there would have been lower than normal turnout.”
Asked whether the low turnout was indicative of the calibre of politics that T&T was experiencing currently, Ragoonath said he would not say so.
“I won’t go there yet. This was a different campaign. We did not have the hype of mass rallies. A motorcade is different and some people just didn’t get the spirit to go and vote,” he explained. He noted, “This was a subdued election.”
Asked whether the racial connotations on the platform had affected voting, Ragoonath said, “The campaign is one thing, social media is another thing. I sent out a release calling for respect and tolerance and peace. We know for a fact we cant monitor the private posts. I think racism is something that has to be treated in a different way as we move forward.”
He said the racial post-election rants may not have stemmed from the campaign.
“We know there are issues on both sides and we have to deal with the issue of race head-on,”he also said. He reiterated that the low voter turnout to a large extent stemmed from COVID fears and the lack of hype in the campaign.
Another analyst Dr Hamid Ghany said he was still analysing the election results and did not want to comment at the moment.
Guardian interviewed several people about why they did not vote.
Carly Hernandez, of Cunupia, said she did not vote this year because of COVID-19.
“I have been taking all precautions with my family and I did not want to go out there and expose myself,” Hernandez said.
Nadine Ackaloo, of Barrackpore, said she worked for most of the day and by late afternoon she did not feel to vote.
Adanna from San Fernando said she saw the long lines in the Gulf View Community Centre and realised that it made no sense standing there for hours.
“It would have been my first time voting but I didn’t get an opportunity to vote,” Adanna added.
The EBC said only 58.04 per cent of voters showed up to vote at the polls. With an electorate of 1,134,135 people in 41 parliamentary constituencies, only 658,297 votes were tabulated. In the 2015 election, the EBC reported a 66.8 per cent representing 734,271 voters turning up out of a registered electorate of 1,099, 279.