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Tunapuna voters still undecided, confused

...but new boundary changes make constituency lean to the PNM—Henry
Published: 
Sunday, August 2, 2015

With the 2015 general election mere weeks away, all eyes are on the marginal seats especially Tunapuna which is expected to help determine whether the People’s Partnership (PP) retains power or the People’s National Movement (PNM) completes a fifth successive election victory.

However, at this point, voters in the prized Tunapuna seat remain undecided and somewhat confused about their options for the election. 

This, as the PP is yet to name a candidate for the constituency. The PNM has selected former councillor Esmond Forde as their candidate.

Constituent Marvin Jobe, 36, of St John’s Road, St Augustine, has not taken the PP’s delay in the selection of a candidate lightly.

In fact, to him the delay not only reflects a lack of preparedness by the ruling coalition, but wanton disrespect for Tunapuna constituents.

“It making me feel like the first time they came into power, like they do not know what they are doing or what they are about. Elections is September 7, you think you could come and tell me a month and change before the election that this is the person you putting to represent me?” 

There is a similar refrain from other constituents in the seat which is currently held by PP MP, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran.

Tunapuna is considered a tough marginal constituency to call even when candidates are named, so having just one main contender does not make it any easier. 

The Sunday Guardian understands that former National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) Tunapuna MP Emanuel Hosein, businessman Reynold Baldeosingh, and UNC Tunapuna constituency co-ordinator Hamlyn Jailal are three of the names being bandied about in the constituency. Dookeran has already confirmed that he will not be seeking re-election. 

Pollsters are hardpressed at this time to determine which way the seat will swing with its 26,517 electorate, an increase of 1,326 voters over 2010. In 2010, the Tunapuna electorate stood at 25,191 and there was a 74.1 per cent voter turnout. 

Solution by Simulation Ltd managing director Nigel Henry has described it as “a critical marginal constituency.”

He explained that without winning Tunapuna, “it would be very difficult for either party to find a ‘path’ to 21 seats.”

However, Henry said, recent boundary changes, specifically the addition of the eastern half of Maracas Valley and the removal of Tacarigua to create the new Lopinot/Bon Air West constituency, have made “Tunapuna a lot more PNM-leaning than it was in the (early) 2000’s.”

How the power shifted in Tunapuna

Tunapuna, one of the key marginal seats in the 2015 polls, was historically a PNM stronghold.

For five consecutive terms—a total of 25 years—the PNM held the seat, and most at that time considered it to be a safe seat. 

However, in 1986 Emanuel Hosein, riding the NAR landslide sweep, captured the seat. 

After a 25-year rein in the constituency, Hosein was able to remove then incumbent MP John Scott earning 10,684 votes as opposed to Scott’s 5,565 votes that year. 

However, five years later in 1991, Edward Hart would regain the seat for the PNM capturing 6,872 votes. Hosein only mustered 3,266 votes, a far cry from the 10,684 votes he received in the last election.

Hart was able to keep the seat safely in the PNM fold in the subsequent 1995 election, but the United National Congress (UNC) at that time edged closer to closing the gap between the PNM and themselves. 

In 2000, the UNC’s Meryvn Assam made the party’s first inroad into the Tunapuna seat capturing the constituency by a thin margin of 336 votes. Assam received 9,062 votes, while Hart received 8,726 votes.

Assam was unable to recreate his 2000 election success a year later on 2001, and lost the seat to Hart once again. Hart held on to the seat when a snap election was called in 2002. 

Five years later, in 2007, Hart was replaced by PNM candidate Esther Le Gendre who retained the seat for the PNM. She defeated Congress of the People (COP) candidate Clyde Weatherhead and the UNC’s Christine Newallo-Hosein. She received 8,494 votes. Weatherhead received 4,182 votes, and Newallo-Hosein received 3,986 votes. 

In 2010, the constituency saw a record 74.1 per cent voter turnout of the 25, 191 electorate. The COP’s Winston Dookeran, the PP’s candidate, captured a whopping 10,446 votes over the PNM’s Le Gendre. She received 8, 149 votes.

It is anybody’s call in 2015 as the PNM’s Esmond Forde is yet to meet his opponent. Forde, a former councillor for the area, has hit the ground running and has been campaigning hard.

The boundaries 

Tunapuna is bordered by five constituencies—St Ann’s East, Arima, Lopinot/Bon Air West, St Augustine and St Joseph. The Eastern Main Road is the constituency’s chief boundary and it encompasses parts of St Augustine, Tunapuna, St Joseph, El Dorado, Caura and Marcas/St Joseph.

Constituents—More should have been done

Tunapuna constituents did not mince words when it came to discussing the issues affecting them, which ranged from rising crime to a consistently unreliable water supply. 

However, one issue that was prevalent among those interviewed by the Sunday Guardian was that they did not appreciate the PP’s delay in naming a candidate for the seat.

Kumar Persad, 66, of Green Street, Tunapuna, lamented that for years residents have been complaining about improper drainage and poor distribution of water by WASA.

Persad, who said he studied political science, was disappointed in Dookeran’s representation. He said he only met Dookeran once when he was campaigning in 2010, and that was the last time he saw him.

He said he was a UNC supporter, but he was unhappy that a candidate has not yet been named for Tunapuna.

“I see that (no candidate) as very wrong for the Prime Minister not to name a candidate for Tunapuna yet. They (COP) put five candidates this (last) week, but nobody for Tunapuna. But, I think it will not affect them negatively because they have a whole month, four weeks and a week in September, so if they name the candidate in the first week in August they could win this seat easily,” he said.

However, Marvin Jobe, 36, of St John Road, St Augustine, was not so confident that the PP will retain the seat nor will the PNM get his outright support.

Jobe said with the election a month away, he does not believe that it is sufficient time to get to know a candidate. 

“They could never do me that. Mr Forde around a little while now but at the same time, I do not feel too confident about him neither. They do not give you that feeling that you confident about the person representing you. The person representing me right now (Dookeran), I do not feel that confidence,” Jobe said. 

Trevor Scanterbury, 58, of El Dorado Road, El Dorado, made it clear that he will be voting for the PNM because he believes that nothing was done for Tunapuna in the last five years. 

“They neglect Tunapuna, they do not like Tunapuna at all, they did not do anything for we, nothing, nothing...” he said as spoke about the incomplete Upper El Dorado Community Centre. 

Karima Jadoo, 45, of Persad Street, El Dorado, was upset that one month away from the election “we do not have a candidate, that is terrible.”

She said, “To be honest, I feel we do not get any kind of representation, and if anything happen we would more so deal with the councillor to get some sort of satisfaction or help.”

How they voted over the years

2010 

Winston Dookeran (COP) 10,446 votes 

Esther Le Gendre (PNM) 8,149 votes

2007 

Esther Le Gendre (PNM) 8,494 votes

Clyde Weatherhead (COP) 4,182 votes

Christine Newallo-Hosein (UNC) 3,989 votes

2002

Edward Hart (PNM) 10,154 votes

Carlos John (UNC) 9,530 votes

2001

Edward Hart (PNM) 8,792 votes

Mervyn Assam (UNC) 8,538 votes

2000

Mervyn Assam (UNC) 9,062 votes

Edward Hart (PNM) 8,726 votes

 

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