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With Opposition UNC crediting its “pure ground game” for taking the Barataria seat from the ruling PNM, the latter is analysing Monday’s defeat to see if local mobilisation or national issues caused PNM to lose the seat.
UNC Barataria co-ordinator Barry Padarath and PNM chairman Franklin Khan have confirmed the respective positions following Monday’s by-elections in Belmont East and Barataria.
PNM retained the former via candidate Nicole Young, but lost Barataria to the UNC. Contacted on the lower numbers PNM received in both seats compared with its 2016 votes in each, Khan said, “We didn’t fall down. We retained Belmont East. Bear in mind Local Government polls have low turnout and by-elections have even lower turnout. We knew Barataria would have been a close fight, but we didn’t expect to lose— but we did, by a small margin. We’re currently assessing if it was due to local reasons (in the seat) or national issues, though I doubt very much . It may have to do with local mobilisation. I doubt the Muslim vote had anything to do with it. Whatever—we’ll put corrective measures in place.” Other PNM election planners said PNM had been ahead in Barataria by 95 votes until the final two boxes of votes—polling divisions 1336 (1) and 13346 (2)—arrived. These were from areas bordering El Socorro.
They added: “So Nafeesa Mohammed and the Muslim vote had an impact. Polling division 1405 is where UNC got 800 and PNM 220 last time. But Monday, UNC got 800 and PNM only got 106. It wasn’t that people didn’t vote - they just stayed home. We lost Barataria by 108 votes. If we’d got a few more polling divisions, we’d have won. We had the numbers and motivated our base to come out, but didn’t motivate the fringe of the base—the uncertain ones— to do so.” Some PNMites claimed Prime Minister Keith Rowley was “very displeased” (one said “angry”) over the defeat.
Padarath said: “Ours was a numbers game and pure ground campaign. We walked areas four and five times, moreso our candidates interacted a lot with people and didn’t just walk and wave—the latter was PNM’s deficiency.”
Consequently, UNC candidate Sharon Maraj- Dharam now becomes UNC’s third councillor in the San Juan/Barataria regional corporation where the PNM has 10 other seats and controls the corporation. UNC’s win won’t affect the alderman arrangement there.
UNC chairman David Lee added, “This is the first time UNC has taken the Barataria corporation seat which PNM usually held. We got it in 2010 with the ‘Kamlamania’ then. This time we’ve taken it from a corporation belonging to the Government of the day and whereas we lost the seat in 2016 by 394 votes, we’ve now won it by swinging 500 votes. Victory wasn’t due to the Muslim vote alone since we gained more votes across the entire seat and in 17 out of the 18 polling divisions. Mohammedville for instance is one street not a polling division. There was an upswing across the board sending a message to PNM. We also made enough inroads in Belmont for a 200 per cent increase there.”
PEP moves on
Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) leader Phillip Alexander said after 18 months the party didn’t get enough for victory “but enough establish itself as a legitimate voice of the people...we’ve forged new relationships and built bridges.
The day of the patriot is upon us. The past few weeks is the beginning of the change we always knew we always needed. Unlike many others, PEP’s no flash in the pan or assemblage of public office seekers willing to coalesce and for opportunity, but a real political vehicle. This mission has only just begun,” he said inviting the public to PEP’s headquarters on Saturday to continue building.
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