In my column published on 12 July, I stated that ‘the leader of the opposition may be setting up herself for a post-election fall back role of martyred loser, if necessary’. I also wrote that the list of UNC candidates ‘was a political insurance list, packed with persons who might not be inclined to dump the leader of the opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, if the UNC lost’.
Kamla’s references to the absence of foreign election observers was laced with a reference to Guyana and ‘allegations of electoral rigging and impropriety now being litigated’ were also noted.
It was no surprise, therefore, that, facing electoral defeat, the UNC called for recounts in certain seats said to be ‘marginal’ but, in most of which, the margin of defeat was comfortable.
There was however real slackness in the release of the preliminary voting figures. On election night and the following morning, the media was publishing figures, apparently gleaned from periodic announcements of counts in progress. The public and the political parties accepted, commented and acted upon those while the UNC reserved its position—although they knew enough to call for a recount.
Why did the Elections and Boundaries Commission (the EBC) not make a prompt announcement of the votes recorded for each candidate at the conclusion of the count? The EBC’s delay was a recipe for un-necessary drama and unease.
Nevertheless, were the UNC recount calls merely a platform or ruse for tacking on allegations of ‘voting improprieties and irregularities’ while the chorus of ‘Kamla must not be blamed’ arose?
The recount manoeuvres are obstructionist. It is sad to see a formidable young political talent like Anita Haynes, the new member for Tabaquite and PRO of the UNC, having to be a salesperson for this kind of wriggling.
All parties might want to face the future more honestly. In the public interest, the UNC must press on instead with election petitions—if it has evidence of the irregularities it has been alleging.
To the returning government, may I ask you expeditiously to restart campaign finance reform; and please tell us whether any of the contractors named in the alleged cartel case before the High Court were recipients of work under your previous watch. And what is your position on that going forward.
It is my understanding that at the counting of the votes, the political parties have representatives present and they relay the results to the parties directly from the EBC counting locations to the tally rooms of the parties.
The parties in turn relay those results to the media. Sometimes party officials may give the media access to the tally rooms.
Had the PNM been sensitive to the supercharged political atmosphere, it would have explained earlier that the announcement by which the prime minister claimed victory at 10.30pm on election night was based on figures released by the EBC to the parties, which consequently the UNC also would have had at that time.
Returning to the EBC, it may need to develop a more supportive attitude towards inquiries from the media.
The election rules require the EBC to announce the votes recorded for each candidate after it has received the required statements of poll from the presiding officers. It cannot sit on this announcement, until it feels like making it, because candidates have only until noon the day following the election to ask for a recount.
Presumably, therefore, the EBC must have had preliminary results available on Tuesday morning, which the parties had, but it only released them to the public on Wednesday evening—after it was pressed to do so.
Meanwhile, if we can get a government in place, a hard times budget will come soon. That will also require that we face the future with honesty.
However, the National Insurance Board and the Unit Trust Corporation can face the future with relief at not having the Opposition in office. Kamla’s inanities about ‘idle cash balances’ in those institutions stimulated the best political ad of the election season—the one with the smashed piggy bank and Kamla taking every last cent.