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Political leader of the PNM Tobago Council, Tracy Davidson-Celestine on her arrival at the Red House to attend yesterday’s sitting of the Parliament.

Preliminary data coming in from a People’s National Movement (PNM) commissioned survey shows a tight election race in Tobago.

The Tobago House of Assembly election is carded for December 6 and already the PNM and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) are engaging in a critical ground offensive, working the electorate and trying to secure votes.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) recently commissioned a survey of the Tobago electorate and according to the data, the THA election will be determined by people suffering from the almost two-year-long economic shutdown and overall voter disinterest.

The survey also found that there is an underlying sentiment that the leadership of the country needs to change.

According to data compiled and commissioned by a high-ranking PNM official, both the PNM and the PDP can claim four safe seats each (see box) which leaves seven marginals up for grabs.

Guardian Media understands that a survey showed that a mere 700 votes could win the election for either side.

In some areas, there is a meagre two per cent margin of victory predicted for the PNM.

The survey identified major issues impacting the electorate which include the customary matters of unemployment, inflation and health. However, a fourth item: self-governance was highlighted in the survey and it trumped health concerns.

The survey identified the ripple effect of the COVID-19 shut down on poor, single mothers and voters between the ages of 18 and 33 and found that unemployment was still the major grouse against the PNM.

According to the high-ranking PNM official, the shutdown of daycares and other childcare facilities meant single mothers were without a safe space to watch their children and were forced to stay at home. This, the official said, has led to “real poverty and real want”.

People in the leisure sector which is highly linked to the tourism sector were obviously affected. Those were identified as the people who sold wares and food on the beaches, rented lounge chairs and handled boat tours.

The rising cost of food and goods has an obvious cause for concern among the electorate and key responses have been identified including opening the economy, increasing employment and upping social outreach programmes especially those geared toward single mothers.

Self-governance has become the battle cry of the PDP and according to the PNM commissioned survey, it is a hot topic for the electorate.

The PDP has even erected a billboard showing oil deposits around Tobago’s waters, telling Tobagonians that they are losing out on millions in energy sales which makes Tobago autonomy more attractive to the voters even along class lines.

Vanus James forecasts PNM loss, Winford uncertain

Political analyst Dr Winford James and economist Dr Vanus James both weighed in on the historic election yesterday. While James (W) believes that the race could go either way, James (V) thinks the PNM will lose on December 6.

James (W) said that the issue of Tobago self-governance was an important one for the electorate.

He said the issue of self-governance was “most definitely” one that could influence the elections. This is of particular interest as the two parties are at polar opposites on the issue.

The PDP has been calling for self-governance while the PNM has maintained that now is now the time for it.

“It is the issue that occupied us before January 25 this year and it is the issue that dominated our thoughts. The issue has not gone away,” he said.

“The two major parties are polarised on the matter, and it is how well they promote themselves or promote the message to the populace,” James said.

James said that the margins were “pretty small” which made the fight more intense.

“Remember on January 25, on the PNM side, and perhaps even in the PDP side, the expectation that the PDP would have taken 4 seats from the PNM was very weak, but it happened. You never can tell,” he said.

James said that young, educated people were not seeing any hope and if the incumbent party did not come with new ideas to inspire the voters, they are likely to lose that voting demographic.

James said that a loss in Tobago could have a simple effect for the PNM in other upcoming elections.

“Tobago ensures that the PNM stays in power. Remember there 41 seats, 39 of which are in Trinidad and the PNM holds 20 and the UNC holds 19, in other words the PNM is leading by a slim majority in Trinidad but when you add the two seats in Tobago, the PNM is leading by three seats,” James said.

“Let’s suppose there is some shift in two seats in Trinidad and PNM loses Tobago, what do you think would happen,” he said.

“The PNM in Trinidad has depended a great deal on the PNM in Tobago. Tobago is very important to the PNM politics,” he said.

Meanwhile, James (V) was more definitive.

“The PNM is going to lose the elections,” he said.

“Well I think that Tobagonians are seeing these elections coming as an opportunity to finish the job started in January,” he said.

In January, the PNM and the PDP tied 6-6 which is what triggered the expansion of the Tobago constituencies from 12 to 15 for this election.

“I think most young people that I know, including some I talked to this week, professionals, public servants and so, generally think that the time has come to remove the PNM from office and get started with the proper processes of sorting out Tobago’s status in the nation,” he said.

He said that this week he was talking to a young, female engineer and she was “fully sold on the idea that the time had come to determine the path to a new future for Tobago”.

James said Tobagonians want to end the “authoritarian” approach to governance of the PNM.

“The Government is unpopular here for its conduct here and for its conduct, in particular of the Prime Minister in Trinidad. His popularity has gone way down here and that will cost them,” James said.

“The popularity of the female leader here too is very low,” he said, referring to Davidson-Celestine.

He said that that dip in popularity had nothing to do with the COVID-19 driven shutdowns.

“The arrogance of Dr Rowley and the arrogance of Tracy Davidson-Celestine, she is not loved at all in Tobago,” he said.

James said that it was “quite striking” how many business people want her to lose her seat.

“The number of people who have told me that in the last month is quite stunning. The young people, in particular, are up in arms about her,” he said.

“But Dr Rowley comes across as quite arrogant and lacking in any understanding of what Tobago needs and people also see him as having a lack of understanding in how to run the country,” he said.

“People don’t like the one-man-ism and the lack of influence what is happening and his whole demeanour, including his demeanour with respect to the Opposition,” James said.

James said that the attempt to link the PDP to the United National Congress (UNC) was not working with the electorate.

“Tobagonians have clearly rejected that,” he said.

James said that the youths were discerning about several issues and are moving away from the hampers and are also fed up with most employment being handled by the THA.

“The youth understand that it is a dangerous thing to have everyone working for the Government,” he said.

PNM safe seats

Signal Hill/Patience

Buccoo/Mt Pleasant

Darryl Spring/Whim

Plymouth/Black Rock

PDP safe seats

Belle Garden/Glamorgan

Argyle/Roxborough

Speyside/Charlotteville

Bethesda/Les Coteaux

Marginals

Bagatelle/Bacolet

Bon Accord/Crown Point

Lambeau/Lowlands

Mt St George/Goodwood

Scarborough/Mt Grace

Mason Hall/Moriah

Bethel/New Grange