Based on the voting patterns of the January Tobago House of Assembly election, the new Darryl Spring Whim seat is “heavily skewed “to favour the People’s National Movement, says political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath.
He made the comment in response to questions on how he thinks the new seats created by Election and Boundaries Commission draft order will impact the THA polls ahead. Elections are expected by the end of November/early December.
The EBC’s order created three news seats, adding to the current 12 in order to prevent any possible recurrence of the 6-6 tie that resulted between the People’s National Movement and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in the January election.
The order was approved by Parliament last week. It has to be proclaimed shortly.
The PNM began seeking nominees last Friday and will end that process on September 30.
Ragnoonath said, “The EBC draft order focused largely on Tobago West, which is the more populated part of Tobago. This was to be expected and as such, the EBC, in seeking to break up electoral divisions to add three more, can only focus on the more populous areas. In so far as the redistribution of the voting population, the EBC changed the maximum/minimum size of a division to a range between 3,131 and 3,869. So in terms of the EBC doing their work in accordance with the legislative directive, there is no problem and no real challenges.”
Politically, however, he said it may be argued that the changes favour the PNM. In fact, of the three new seats, based on the January 2021 voting patterns, one seat, Darrel Spring Whim, is heavily skewed to favour the PNM. The other two new divisions are more evenly poised but still with a PNM advantage, he noted.
Beyond the three new divisions, there is also the challenge for the PDP with regard to some of the seats they would have won in January because their margins of victory was small and even minute.
“With the realignment of boundaries in some of these divisions and the reduction of the number of electors in these divisions, that small majority which the PDP had is easily wiped away, so the challenge of retaining those seats based on previous voting patterns becomes difficult.
Be that as it may, elections are won by parties which can bring out voters on election day and while we use the patterns as evolved in the last election, that could change depending on the parties’ ability to convince voters to go out and vote,” he said.
“We reiterate that the 6-6 tie came about because just over 50 per cent of the electorate voted. If the percentage of voters increase significantly the January projections will not hold.”