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Playing the numbers game

Published: 
Friday, December 1, 2017

Given the manner and form in which the UNC internal elections were called and held, without proper transparency or accountability, questions need to be asked about the validity of the results posted by the elections committee, a body appointed by the former National Executive, headed by the political leader.

It is public knowledge that from the outset, it was going to be an uphill battle for anyone attempting to contest the internal election, not least because of the unrealistic deadlines set to comply with, but also the fact that no one was going to be given access to the membership list to campaign effectively. How can you convince financial members to vote for you if you don’t know who the financial members are?

The importance of holding free and fair elections is not only to ensure when the election results have been published they will be deemed credible, but more so for the citizenry to be able to trust those seeking a mandate to run the country.

The incumbent leader, who called the snap election on herself, received, as claimed by her elections committee, 99 per cent of the votes cast for her as leader and actually increased her votes by 2,800 from the 2015 internal elections and by 7,000 from the 2010 internal elections. If those figures are to be believed, the political leader is more popular now than before even though she lost six successive elections, as prime minister, including the general elections in 2015.

According to the results published, it wasn’t just a victory for her. Her slate’s candidates for the few contested posts in the UNC’s National Executive of Education Officer, Party Organiser, North West Regional Co-ordinator and North-East Regional Co-ordinator, each got over 17,000 votes, while their rivals mustered in the low hundreds. Curiously, if people voted according to slate, no one was able to garner near the leader’s 20,328 votes, which would mean additional 3,000 members voted only for the political leader and no one else on her slate.

So let’s for the moment buy into the notion that there was some kind of election with some kind of result and see what it tells us. According to the election committee there were 77 polling stations across 37 venues to accommodate the membership of 102,900 people. So what was the actual turnout according to their numbers?

Assuming that everyone who voted for the leader voted for her slate, the starting point is the 20,328 votes she received. The total votes cast for candidates not on her slate was 2,783. While it is impossible to dis-aggregate that number to ascertain precisely the number of members who cast those votes (remember one member would have voted for different candidates so the actual number of members who voted against her slate is less than 2,783), let us add that number to get an idea—inflated as it is—of the total turnout, which works out to be 23,111 members. That is 22.5 per cent of the alleged 102,900 members, which is a low voter turnout.

Alternatively, if according to the UNC, the leader’s 20,328 votes represented 99 per cent of the turnout, then the turnout was 20,533 members which was a 20 per cent turnout. So according to the UNC itself, only one in five members bothered to vote.

What is more interesting is the fact that the 20,328 members who voted to re-elect the leader are a mere 19.8 per cent of the alleged membership. The hard reality, therefore, using the UNC and its election committee’s own statistics, is that four out of every five UNC members had no interest in the internal elections and either do not or could not be bothered to support the political leader.

The majority of the UNC’s membership is clearly disenchanted with the direction or lack thereof of the party, hence the reason the party finds itself in this position today, like the PNM, disconnected from its supporters. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Mickela Panday

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