With the three-way split, PNM is ahead in St Joseph race

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to your editorial (Oct 30) on the by-election in Trinidad. You misstated that it is for the Barataria seat. It is actually for the adjoining St. Joseph seat. This is usually a marginal seat that has changed political hands over the last 25 years. The record will show that whenever, there are three parties contesting, the PNM wins. With the three-way split underway, the NACTA poll shows the PNM in the driver’s seat.

The St. Joseph seat was held by Herbert Volney, a former High Court Judge who resigned the bench to contest the seat in May 2010. He had a falling out with the UNC over passage of a controversial law that would have forgiven criminals (Called Section 34) and he was sacked from the cabinet. Volney proceeded to cross party lines (as a UNC M.P) resigning his membership and joining the newly formed ILP formed by Jack Warner. At the request of the Prime Minister, the Speaker declared his seat vacant for crossing the floor. He had two weeks to challenge the Speaker’s ruling.  He decided not to challenge the ruling and instead resigned his seat triggering the by-election. Had he gone to court, he may have been able to hold on to the seat because previous challenges to the crossing of the floor act were successful. However, Volney would not have been able to retain it because he is extremely unpopular. Several opinion polls, including one conducted by me for NACTA, showed he had disapproval ratings exceeding 80% for failure to service his constituency. Volney said he was starved of resources to service his constituents.

An ongoing tracking opinion poll being conducted by NACTA puts the PNM’s Terrence Deyalsingh out front to win the November 4 St. Joseph by-election.  The UNC’s Ian Alleyne and ILP’s Om Lalla are trailing slightly behind with the others drawing insignificant support and projected to lose their deposits. The findings show that if the votes were not split, Deyalsingh would have virtually no chance of wresting the seat that was held by the UNC.

The poll reveals more people prefer Om Lalla for the seat but with party loyalty shaping voting behaviour, Alleyne is ahead of Lalla. The overwhelming majority of Peoples Partnership and ILP supporters feel Lalla is the better candidate over Alleyne and the former would have a better chance of winning the seat.  However, people are voting along party lines resulting in Lalla trailing the PNM and UNC candidates. The poll finds people are voting along traditional ethnic lines with the PNM retaining the bulk of its support putting Deyalsingh in the lead while the UNC and ILP are splitting the People Partnership’s base of support causing the two parties to trail the PNM. The findings show the PNM with 33% of popular support followed by UNC with 30% and ILP 24%.

The tracking survey has been conducted over the last three weeks interviewing 450 potential voters reflecting the demographics of the population.  The poll has a margin of error of 4%. NACTA is currently in the fields conducting another poll the findings of which will be released by weekend.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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