Lately, the election fight might have only been between the PNM and UNC. While leaders of both parties were in high battle spirits, just as their respective spiels have deepened into crushing blows, COVID-19 has started throwing punches into the election fight.
With tighter restrictions from tomorrow—and the ominous Government projection of “further action” if the 169 cases continue to climb —the race at this point still seems closer “than this” as Monday’s special voting begins.
On Wednesday, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar whipped up tempo in Chaguanas with Carnival-style motorcade. In PoS, PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley, amid PNM’s Women’s Platform speakers, left the push to the ladies in Red but was dancing at the end.
Those light moments were the last.
At yesterday’s Health briefing on resurged COVID-19, Rowley was slightly subdued and quick to tackle all open areas. Although virus prevention depends highly on public behaviour, the Opposition will produce multiple platforms for responses on developments. More immediately, respective leadership tests must retool final battle week ahead according to the damper presented by latest restrictions—including impact of heightened virus spread on voter psyche.
Authorities have avoided deeming it a second wave and halted on “community” spread—a situation which makes poll postponement inevitable. But their termed “clusters” aren’t from imported sources.
Whether the situation widens or narrows the six-point lead which the GML-commissioned HHB poll showed PNM holding over UNC, remains ahead. Once elections occur.
PNMites are mum on reported opposition inroads in Moruga, La Horquetta or San Fernando West. But PNM’s Tobago West MP Ayanna Webster-Roy, at Wednesday’s meeting, confirmed Tobago East remains a concern. She conveyed some are still mulling if PNM’s the right choice. After veteran politicos, including Pam Nicholson, emerged behind Watson Duke’s PDP, it remains to unfold if this weekend’s opening of Tobago projects will assist PNM’s campaign, coordinated by Ronald Celestine.
Moruga’s significance as the most crucial seat to denote election winner was seen via presence there by both sides on Monday. Rowley presented another project. Persad-Bissessar motorcaded, displaying UNC’s Moruga force built by co-ordinator Randy Ramadharsingh. PNM’s Moruga plan is led by Andre Monteil.
UNC’s confident with La Horquetta/Talparo due to non-traditional UNC support attracted by its agricultural project there. PNM’s campaign, co-ordinated by Kwesi Robinson, banks on the extra 4,000 votes PNM got in 2015. In San Fernando West, where PNM’s co-ordinator is Kazim Hosein and UNC’s is Danny Maharaj, both parties project their respective candidates “are winning.”
The battle intensified Thursday when PNM’s Colm Imbert and Faris Al-Rawi spoke on financial and legal issues—jamming a Persad-Bissessar meeting, aired at the same time. Her concerns on Election and Boundaries Commission procedures for voters add to the concoction of elements—now intensified COVID restrictions—making election 2020 historic. Whenever it’s held.
UNC’s economic plan may appear refreshing alternative after the gruelling term but after economists’ criticism, Persad-Bissessar on Thursday took pains to detail further. The plan must, however, be analysed to see if it’s lined up with the correct talent to implement its demands. This term’s taught that nothing can be left to chance or casual steering. Supplementing plan, UNC’s also been doing projects in marginals to woo voters.
While PNM’s prefaced manifesto presentation with handover of facilities in recent weeks, indicating how they bring national benefits. But that approach cannot replace a manifesto which was absent up to yesterday, but expected by PNM officials by “this weekend.” It’s presented UNC with credible ammunition, including being late for a stressed public seeking comfort and for a Government whose stocks are burdened and now struggling with second wave COVID.
Even if the science of election holds that voters decide in the seven to 10 days before an election and even if the PNM’s latest poll this weekend projects success in crucial seats, Rowley’s said this is a different, difficult time. Even dangerous, he added.
How difficult and dangerous it could end up being—and with what impact for parties and public - will unfold ahead. Provided COVID’s punches allow for polls.