Political scientists say Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley acted within the law by declaring August 10 as the general election date.
Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said the date would be a “normal election,” explaining that a general election is normally due just around the fifth anniversary of the previous election.
“It was expected. In fact, other political scientists from the University of the West Indies were saying that the election would have been called even earlier in July,” Ragoonath told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.
“I have seen some analysts saying the Government was supposed to give three months notice, no way. The Government is supposed to give 35 days notice and in that context the Government did nothing wrong.”
Ragoonath said given that the election was anticipated, last week’s protests in Port-of-Spain and other parts of the country, along with negative sentiments from the general population regarding growing unemployment and the high cost of living, could not be seen as factors forcing the PM’s hand in calling the election.
“In terms of what is happening economically and socially, the Prime Minister, being a politician and wanting to win an election, would have had to call the election sooner rather than later,” he said.
“The Prime Minister would have had the option of calling the election by latest at December 22. However, given the state of the economy and the social situation in the country, the longer the Prime Minister takes to call the election, chances are things are going to get progressively worse.” Ragoonath noted that while there remains a general feeling of discontentment in the society, this may not necessarily impact voter turn out. He explained that about 65 per cent of the electorate would normally vote.
“The people you have to consider are the swing voters, those who are not committed one way or the other to one party or the other,” Ragoonath added.
Political analyst Dr Mukesh Basdeo also agreed it was not a snap election as some have suggested, as it was constitutionally due. However, he said the question remains whether or not the selected candidates will have an impact for their respective political parties.
“The impact will be on the outskirts of constituencies. For example, will the candidate for Barataria/San Juan have an impact on St Joseph for example? This is the ripple effect you’re looking at,” Basdeo explained.
“Does the choice of St Augustine affect Tunapuna? So the choice of candidate is important but the position of the party is also an important factor.”
Basdeo added that the window of opportunity is also very short given that it is five weeks away for the general election. He said there are also other variables which must be factored in, including the state of the economy and the recent protests in Port-of-Spain over the police killings of three men in Morvant.
“I think this is going to have an impact because the majority of persons of a particular age group, if classified according to voting behaviour, they would be classified around the age of 18 to 32.
“They represent a significant core of voters and how will this impact upon voting behaviour in constituencies? Will it have a ripple effect? Will this ripple effect be along the east/west corridor?” Basdeo added.