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Too close to call in St Joseph

Published: 
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Map of St Joseph. Courtesy Nigel henry, solution by simulation

People’s National Movement (PNM) incumbent MP Terrence Deyalsingh will have a tough fight on his hands to retain the St Joseph seat.

Deyalsingh captured the seat in a snap by-election in November 2013 after the resignation of then UNC MP Herbert Volney. He came up against Crime Watch host Ian Alleyne who contested the seat on a United National Congress (UNC/PP) ticket and lost. Om Lalla also fought the seat on an Independent Liberal Party (ILP) ticket and lost.

This time, Deyalsingh, who has labelled himself “Man of the people,” faces UNC candidate Vasant Bharath, a strong contender for the seat. Deyalsingh expressed confidence he would win.

Deyalsingh is hoping that the wave of popularity that he rode in 2013 will continue when voters return to the voting booth. 

However, political analyst Dr Maukesh Basdeo said the seat was too close to call at this point. 

Basdeo, during an interview at his UWI Faculty of Social Sciences office last week, said the race for St Joseph would be even more challenging if the ILP picks up steam ahead of the polls. 

The seat, he said, is not safe for either party “because of the tendency to shift.” 

How the tides

turned in St Joseph

St Joseph, a PNM stronghold for 25 years, changed hands in 1986 when National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) candidate, now the party’s political leader Dr Carson Charles was able to break the PNM hold on the seat. He captured the lion’s share of votes that year. 

However, Charles was unable to sustain that hold and the seat quickly returned to the PNM in 1991 when Augustus Ramrekersingh received 5,927 votes as opposed to Charles’s 3,497 votes.

In 1995, the UNC finally broke ground in St Joseph, riding the Basdeo Panday wave of popularity that year. Mervyn Assam captured the seat and the party maintained its hold on St Joseph for 12 years after. In 2007, Kennedy Swarathsingh won the seat for the PNM. 

When “Kamla-mania” swept T&T in 2010, former judge Herbert Volney wrested the seat back for the UNC/PP. 

Basdeo, who reviewed the election history of the hotly contested marginal said, at this point, he could not predict which way the seat would swing. This, even though the UNC won the seat on four occasions in the last six elections and the PNM won it on two occasions.

He said “since 2013, we have been seeing an upsurge with the UNC/PP performance, so it is interesting to see what is going to happen with these major constituencies, Chaguanas West and St Joseph, to see whether the ILP/the Jack (Warner) factor will continue to have an effect on the elections as well.”

The PNM, he added, was only able to take back St Joseph from the UNC in the last decade because there was a third party in the race.

Basdeo explained that in the case of St Joseph, the seat changed hands from the UNC to the PNM in 2007 because of the UNC/Congress of the People (COP) split, and again in 2013 because of the PP/Jack Warner split. 

Support for Warner’s ILP has dropped from double digits to single digits, he said, which means, “it will be a clear fight between the UNC and the PNM in St Joseph.”

Warner, he said, could still be the spoiler in 2015.

However, Basdeo suggested, “if you analyse it, (the St Joseph seat) is more in favour of the UNC than the PNM if we look at the last six elections.”

“In a two-party race the UNC tends to come out the winner,” he added. 

Constituents divided

Most constituents remain divided on just who they will be supporting for the 2015 polls. However, Neverson Street, St Joseph resident Ann Marie Matamora, 51, said her choice was clear as she pledged support for the PNM and Deyalsingh. 

“I see UNC as failed and as a party that we need to get rid of. I will be giving Mr Deyalsingh...and a lot of people on my street will be giving him support,” she said.

In as much as Matamora supports the PNM, pensioner Dominic Salvary, 69 of Smoker Road, Mt D’or, Champs Fleurs, dislikes the party. 

“I for one, I have no faith in the PNM. I grow up in Matelot and in 30 years they have not developed the road from Matelot to Blanchisseuse. Since Williams days they promise to build that road,” he said.

Salvary did not put his faith in the People’s Partnership either. 

“The fight for the election is between the PP and the PNM, but it have other parties, the ILP and it have Steve Alvarez (of the Democratic Party of T&T.) I think he (Alvarez) is a good man, I read his articles and I think that people should try somebody else because Trinidad is not only the PNM and the UNC,” he said.

Gary Graham, 49, Community Drive, Mt D’or, Champs Fleurs, did not mince words on who he was supporting for 2015 in his constituency as he pledged support for Bharath.

“So far, he look like a man we could deal with, we watching...He does talk nice and we looking for more meetings for him getting to know us and we getting to know him. We are giving him a fair chance, we putting him there,” Graham said.

There were mixed views from other constituents. Some complained they were abandoned by all political parties. Their concerns ranged from unemployment, crime, poor drainage and garbage collection.

How the people voted

The demographics of the St Joseph constituency is as diverse as its racial make-up, according to Nigel Henry, managing director of Solution by Simulation Ltd. 

He explained that 39 per cent of constituents are Afro-Trinidadian while 35 per cent are Indo-Trinidad. The constituency, he said, has a 25 per cent mixed population and one per cent is other. 

“The income bracket is mixed where you have areas like Bangladesh and then you have the upper income (areas) like Valsayn. It is a diverse constituency,” Henry said.

2013 by-election

n Terrence Deyalsingh (PNM) 6,357 votes

n Ian Alleyne (UNC/PP) 5,577 votes

n Om Lalla (ILP) 1,976 votes

2010 general election

n Herbert Volney (PP)-10,835

n Kennedy Swarathsingh (PNM)-7,778

n Marcus Ramkissoon (Independent)-34

2007 general election 

n Kennedy Swarathsingh (PNM)-7,969

n Dr Carson Charles (UNC)-4,932

n Gillian Lucky (COP)-4,344

2002 general election

n Gerald Yetming (UNC)-9,352

n Sharon Gopaul-Mc Nicol (PNM)-8,124

n Kofi Applewhite (Citizen’s Alliance)-153

2001 general election

n Carlos John (UNC)-8,824

n Kayam Mohammed (PNM)-6,793

n Saeed Mohammed (Team Unity)-242

2000 general election

n Carlos John (UNC)-9,753

n Donna Carter (PNM)-7,387

​The Boundaries 

The St Joseph constituency begins in San Juan, encompasses Mount Hope, Curepe, Valsayn and Aranguez. 

It is bordered by the constituencies San Juan/Barataria, Tunapuna, St Augustine, as well as St Ann’s East to the north and Chaguanas West to the south. 

The current St Joseph electorate stands at 27,499, an increase of 1,556 voters over 2010. In that year, the electorate stood at 25,943. The 2010 general election saw a 73 per cent voter turnout in the constituency.

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