Two political analysts believe that early December is the best time for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to call the 2020 general election.
Analysts Dr Maukesh Basdeo and Prof John La Guerre weighed in on the best possible date for this year’s election, following Rowley’s interview on national television on Sunday who stated that general elections will be called when it is constitutionally due.
The PM, however, kept the date close to his chest.
Basdeo said the election is constitutionally due in September at the end of the government’s term in office, but the PM can call a snap election if his Cabinet begins to lose credibility or finds themselves in some controversial issue.
“The Prime Minister would call an immediate election to stem the fall-out.”
The last general election was held on September 7, 2015.
However, Basdeo said the law allows the PM a three months extension after September 7, to call an election.
“So the furthest he (PM) can go (with an election date) is 23rd of December 2020.”
“Some may speculate that if the Prime Minister chooses to utilise the three months extension that is beyond September 23, so he can have the election somewhere later in the last quarter of this calendar year…..So in October or November, if he does that, it means he would have a next budget to present before a general election,” Basdeo said.
Basdeo said it would not be unusual for an election to be held the first Monday in December, as it has happened before under a previous government.
“I don’t see it as a major problem.”
So if Rowley chooses early December for voters to go to the polls, Basdeo said Finance Minister Colm Imbert would have to delivery a budget to utilise the three months extension.
He said the Elections and Boundaries Commission must be given five weeks notice to prepare for an election.
While the three months extension may be useful for Rowley to tie up loose ends, commission its multi-million dollar projects and score political points on the campaign trail, Basdeo said the longer the Government waits to call an election “it would have a more disastrous effect on their chances at the polls.”
“There are a number of construction projects they may wish to deliver to the population.”
Basdeo cited the $221 million Curepe Interchange, Cumuto to Manzanilla Highway which comes with a price tag of $ 400 million and the $196 million Valencia to Toco Main Road upgrade as projects the Government would boast about once completed to show they have been performing.
A worsening crime situation and a stagnant economy can also have an impact on the voter turnout.
“Those will be issues that the population will use to judge the government’s performance,” Basdeo said.
In his interview on Sunday, Rowley asked the population not to judge his Government on the soaring crime and murder rates which his administration has been grappling with since they assumed office.
In a society, Basdeo said citizens tend to focus on the negatives and crime was one matter that could dissuade people from voting.
Rowley appealed to the population to be fair when judging his Government’s overall performance.
Basdeo advised that choosing an election date requires careful thought and planning, stating that in the last three local government elections the PNM saw a decrease in votes, which did not send a good message.
“Calling an election has to be carefully thought out. The time has to be right,” Basdeo said.
La Guerre said if he were in the Prime Minister’s shoes, December would be the most appropriate date he would give.
“I think the best time would be early December. This is when people tend to be happier, relaxed and in a celebratory mood and will still go out to vote.”
La Guerre said one strategy that can work in favour of the Government was to present a sweetheart budget to citizens and then ring the election bell “to get a better response at the polls.”