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In his article “Crunching the numbers”, Dr Hamid Ghany made some fundamental errors in mathematical logic. But before getting into details, some background.

He defines “manufactured majority” as a situation where a party wins more seats but with less than 50% (a minority) of the total votes cast. So, for instance, the PNM won 22 seats out of 41 (a majority) but with 49.08% of the votes cast (less than 50%).

He opined that, in the recent election, “the prime reason there was a ‘manufactured majority’ was because there were seven seats that were won with a less than 50% turnout in those seats and all of those seats were won by the PNM”. (The seven seats with their voter percentage turnout were Port of Spain South – 42.34, Laventille West – 43.66, Diego Martin West – 46.67, Port of Spain North/St. Ann’s West – 46.73, Laventille East/Morvant – 47.17, Diego Martin North East – 47.34 and Diego Martin Central – 48.45.)

That is flawed reasoning. The size of the ‘turnout’ has absolutely nothing to do with the phenomenon of a “manufactured majority”. What matters is the percentage of the ‘turnout’ (whatever it is) that votes for you. And the margins of victory and defeat in individual seats.

To use an example from the 2020 election. Using Ghany’s figures, the turnout was 46.67% in Diego Martin West and 64.22% in La Horquetta/Talparo. However, the PNM won Diego Martin West with 77.74% of the votes cast whereas it won La Horquetta/Talparo with 55.04% of the votes cast. The margin of victory was 7773 votes in Diego Martin West and 1778 in La Horquetta/Talparo. The seat with the lower turnout contributed more to the PNM’s majority, refuting Ghany’s claim.

In fact, in the seven seats listed by Ghany above, all were won by the PNM with huge majorities. One could hardly claim that these “low voter-turnout” seats were responsible for the “manufactured majority”.

In other words, you can win an election with a “manufactured majority” but the reason is anything but the turnout in any particular constituency or set of constituencies. The likeliest reason is that the constituencies you win, you do so by small margins and those you lose, you lose by wide margins. And even if you win a seat by a large margin, that can be negated by the opposition winning another seat by an even bigger margin.

To further illustrate the point, let’s use a 3-seat election with two parties, A and B. Assume each seat has an electorate of 1000 with a 40% voter turnout, that is, 400. Suppose the results were as follows: Seat1: A – 220, B – 180; Seat2: A – 210, B – 190; Seat3: A – 100, B – 300. Party A wins the election with two seats and 530 votes. However, since B got more votes (670), A won with a “manufactured majority”.

Now suppose the voter turnout was 60% (600 voters) in the three seats, with the following results: Seat1: A – 320, B – 280; Seat2: A – 310, B – 290; Seat3: A – 200, B – 400. Party A wins the election with two seats and 830 votes. However, since B got more votes (970), A won with a “manufactured majority”.

The phenomenon of “manufactured majority” can and does occur. Whether or not it does is determined solely by the margins of victory/defeat in individual constituencies, regardless of the turnout.

Noel Kalicharan

Via email