The North American Caribbean Teachers’ Association’s (NACTA) latest opinion poll has found widespread dissatisfaction with the level of representation of Members of Parliament.
The survey was conducted by Dr Vishnu Bisram and revealed that constituents felt most MPs didn’t deserve re-election because of ‘virtual non-performance’ and were glad to see them go.
A large majority of the nation was pleased with the replacement of most incumbents who had largely failed to service their constituency. Voters also complained that they had not seen their MPs since 2015, saying most MPs were seen only at election time.
Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, many complained that they could hardly access their MPs or councillors for assistance. They praised Good Samaritans and a few politicians who provided help (hampers, disinfectants and face masks) to them.
The survey found that only a handful of MPs enjoyed the confidence of their constituents, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Esmond Forde, Ramona Ramdial, Dr Roodal Moonilal, Rushton Parray, Fazal Karim and Nyan Gadsby-Dolly among others. Both Rowley and Persad-Bissessar continue to enjoy broad support among their respective party bases.
Moonilal was praised for his flair and flamboyance in battling the Government the way no one else in the opposition does.
Forde was described as a boss among MPs. He led all MPs in likeability and was about the only MP nationally who enjoyed crossover favourability approval. The poll noted it would be an uphill battle for any challenger to unseat him.
But respondents were excited with the entry of United National Congress’ David Nakhid into the race, noting he brought star power against the PNM’s strongest candidate in any of the so-called marginals. He got good traction from the respondents, the poll said.
Other new, young faces in the UNC lineup in marginals (Moruga, San Fernando West, St Joseph) also got favourable reaction in difficult contests against battle-hardened opponents ahead. Supporters of the UNC said they eagerly await the announcement of candidates for Barataria, LaHorquetta/Talparo, and Toco/Grande.
Respondents also said the return of Pennelope Beckles and the induction of Brian Manning had strengthened the People’s National Movement’s hand in this election. In fact, both were said to be on course to victories because a national swing against the Government, as happened in 2010 and 1986, was not being foreseen by respondents.
Respondents also backed the replacement of all incumbents who had long-standing activity in their constituencies.
Rowley was praised for uniting his party’s base and having a combination of experience and youth, making it virtually impregnable against a fractious opposition.
A large majority, however, was also not pleased with the performance of the Government and the functioning of Parliament, saying both were doing a poor job with the House Speaker also getting very low approval ratings. Respondents felt Parliament had been too partisan and was not focusing enough on the business of the people.
Supporters of both the ruling PNM and opposition UNC, as well as the minor parties, were in general agreement about perceived ‘poor’ functioning of Parliament.
Voters not affiliated with either major party were the most critical of their MPs, Parliament and the Government. Many people also complained of the inability to make ends meet.
The toxicity of national politics was driving away voters, respondents pointed out. Many said it was a hopeless situation and didn’t have much confidence in the future. Some 40 per cent of the voters were not pleased with either major party but were not willing to vote for minor parties, saying they didn’t have a chance to unseat the major party. This group indicated that they would not vote.
The findings also suggested that if there was unity among the opposition forces with credible candidates of proven track record, the incumbent administration would be swept aside with senior MPs losing their seats akin to what happened in 1986.
The survey also found a large majority of voters want change but were not seeing it on the horizon, noting it will be a challenge for any single party taking on the PNM.