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Analyst on EBC boundary changes : Sando West seat to watch

Published: 
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Election Central 2015
Maukesh Basdeo

Political analyst Maukesh Basdeo says close attention should be paid to the San Fernando West seat in the 2015 general election, especially if the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s proposed constituency adjustments are approved in Parliament.

Speaking in an interview about the changes, which will see the re-alignment of polling divisions in six constituencies and result in boundary changes for ten seats, Basdeo said many may have their eyes on San Fernando East, but its neighbouring seat is the one to watch.

“I do not see any party getting an edge on anyone (with the changes.) A lot will come down to campaigning and getting people to vote for whoever is representing San Fernando West and San Fernando East and the campaign strategy involved. 

“It would be much closer, the electoral race in San Fernando West than San Fernando East. That is what you are looking at,” Basdeo said.

Basdeo said with the proposed changes, the margin of victory for the People’s Partnership in the seat, which is currently held by Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, would be significantly reduced when compared to the 2010 results.

He explained that the EBC is proposing to move two polling divisions, with a combined total electors of 741, which would narrow the margin of victory should the PP retain the seat. 

Tight race for Sando Fernando

“The race for San Fernando West will be a tight one,” he said.

Basdeo explained that in 2010 in San Fernando West the People’s National Movement (PNM) received 7,860 votes compared to the COP/PP’s 9,111, which left a margin of 1,251 votes.

When one looks at the polling division to be moved from San Fernando East to San Fernando West, “what you will discover is one stronghold polling division moved from one party to another, which is what happened with San Fernando East and Oropouche East.”

He said in 2010—polling division 4055 at Coffee Street Boys’ AC School—the United National Congress got 90 votes against the PNM’s 236 and at polling division 4060, also at the Coffee Street AC, the UNC received 63 votes to the PNM’s 83.

“The two polling divisions that were strong for the PNM, they are shifting across to San Fernando West, which reduced the margin and would give close to 300 votes in favour of the PNM,” he said. 

This, he said, could trigger a run-off in the constituency should the contentious provision in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2015 be approved. Debate on that bill is still pending, changes proposed by the Senate for the bill are yet to be completed and the legislation returned to Parliament.

However, Nigel Henry, managing director and principal consultant at Solution by Simulation Ltd, said the proposed changes, especially in the Diego Martin seats, were basically, “the changing of one safe (PNM) seat to another. So it does not make any difference.”

Both men agree that the changes being proposed by the EBC are simply to bring equity to the electoral system and there was nothing sinister in the changes.

EBC chairman Dr Norbert Masson has defended the report and the proposed adjustments.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar recently laid the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s 2014 report in the Parliament for debate. The debate was heated at times, with PNM MPs suggesting that the changes would present the Government with an opportunity for gerrymandering. The debate has been adjourned.

The EBC report recommends boundary adjustments for Couva North, Couva South, Diego Martin West, Diego Martin Central, Diego Martin North/East, Port-of-Spain South, Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West, San Fernando East, San Fernando West and Oropouche East to accommodate the redistribution of polling divisions. 

The EBC, in its March 27, 2014 report, which is available on the Parliament Web site, says the electorate stands at 1,040,462 in Trinidad and 47,319 in Tobago. 

The EBC explained that its band parametres for Trinidad stand at 29,347 electors (the permissible upper limit), 26,679 the average, and 24,011 (the permissible lower limit); whereas in Tobago, 26,026 electors make up the permissible upper limit, 23,660 the average, and 21,294 the permissible lower limit.

The commission stated that the report data shows that Couva North and Diego Martin West are above the permissible upper limit and Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West, Port-of-Spain South, San Fernando West and San Fernando East fall below the permissible lower limit. It explained that Couva North has an electorate of 29,355, with 40 polling divisions, which is above the permissible limit.

Couva North changes
The EBC is proposing to move polling division 3115, located at Exchange RC School, Southern Main Road, Couva, to within the Couva South boundaries. 

“A total electorate of 526 would be transferred from Couva North to Couva South, reducing Couva North electorate to 28,829 and number of polling divisions to 39 which would fall within the permissible upper limit,” the report stated.

The Couva South electorate, the report added, “would be increased to 28,069, which is below the permissible upper limit and its corresponding polling division was increased by one to 37.”

Diego Martin West, the EBC found, had an electorate of 29,434, which is above the permissible limit and 48 polling divisions.

Diego Martin North East changes
It is proposing that polling division 0125 at the Diego Martin North Secondary School, in the Diego Martin North/East seat, with an electorate of 583, be added to Diego Martin West, increasing the electorate to 30,017 and the number of polling divisions to 49. 

It is proposing polling division 0066 at Simeon Road Community Centre, Petit Valley-two polling stations with an electorate of 773, be removed from Diego Martin West and added to Diego Martin Central, which has an electorate of 28,555 and 41 polling divisions.

The resulting change would have “an overall net electorate of 29,244 and a reduction of polling divisions to 48 in Diego Martin West; and an increase in the electorate of Diego Martin Central to 29,328 and in the number of its polling divisions by one to 42.”

As a consequence of the removal of polling division 0125 from Diego Martin North/East, the constituency’s electorate of 29, 114 and 45 polling divisions were reduced to 28,531 and 44 respectively. 

The EBC said it became necessary to transfer polling divisions 0190 and 0195 at Boissiere Village RC School, with a combined total of 838 electors from Diego Martin North/East to Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West, adjusting the boundaries of the latter, because its electorate of 23, 364 was below the minimum permissible limit.

The electorate of Diego Martin North/East will be reduced to 27, 693 and the number of polling divisions to 42. The changes now take Diego Martin West to an electorate of 29, 244 with 48 polling divisions and Diego Martin Central to an electorate of 29, 328 and 42 polling divisions. Diego Martin North/East will now have an electorate of 27,692 and 42 polling divisions. 

Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West changes

The EBC proposed the transfer of polling divisions 0190 and 0195 at Boissiere Village RC School, with 715 and 123 electorates respectively, from Diego Martin North/East to Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West, increasing the electorate to 24, 472 and polling divisions to 60.

Polling division 0680 at the Port-of-Spain City Corporation - with an electorate of 212 in Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West - was transferred to the constituency of Port-of-Spain South, reducing the electorate to 24, 260 and the number of polling divisions to 59. 

San Fernando West changes

In San Fernando West polling divisions 4055 and 4060, both located at Coffee Street Boys’ Anglican School, with 514 and 227 electors respectively, are to be transferred to San Fernando East, which has an electorate of 23,501 and 44 polling divisions.

“This results in San Fernando West having a revised electorate of 24,587 and 55 polling divisions and San Fernando East with an electorate of 22, 760 and 42 polling divisions.

Polling divisions 3860 at St Charles Community Centre, 3872 at Ste Madeleine Government School and 3905 at the Petite Morne Community Centre a total of 1907 electors are to be transferred from the constituency of Oropouche East, which has an electorate of 28, 702 and 23 polling divisions, to San Fernando East. This increases the San Fernando East electorate to 24, 667 and polling divisions to 45. Oropouche East would be reduced to 26, 795 and 20 polling divisions.

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