Tomorrow’s general election takes place at a time when the rate of spread of Covid-19 is at a high-risk level, causing more worry than at any other period since the pandemic began.
We simply do not know what effect uncertainty about the ominous risk of exposure to the virus will have on attendance at polling stations.
Unlike the last two elections of 2010 and 2015, there does not appear to be as strong a “vote them out” tide running against the incumbent, but there is doubt whether either of the two major political parties can make things better.
Such indifference, when combined with the uncertainty of voting at a time of Covid, may increase the likelihood of a lower voter turnout.
The 15 per cent or so of undecideds, revealed by the published polling, reflects the doubt whether either of the two major political parties can cut it. The polling has also revealed a lead for the incumbent PNM nationally, but it is a lead that is within the margin of polling error.
This undecided state is not attributable to the pandemic. We have tried both the red and the yellow and those who think outside of traditional loyalties, which is a growing number, have found them both wanting.
The heightened uncertainty about voter turnout and how it will affect the result in the five marginals must be a strong cause for concern among the respective party analysts.
That concern was reflected in a direct appeal by Prime Minister Dr Rowley to undecided voters in a speech made in the marginal constituency of Chaguanas East last week.
Outside of the uncertainty, which is peculiar to life in 2020, this election should turn on which of the two major political parties is capable of taking us out of the economic downturn that had began before the onset of the pandemic, which then rapidly made income loss widespread. It is difficult to choose on this basis.
The Opposition UNC has set the right tone in promising 50,000 jobs in five years and making some general proposals about diversification, but I do not understand what are the sources of the investment to make this happen.
The current Government has placed emphasis on its ability to keep things stable by prudent management of our savings in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, sustainable borrowing and implementation of social safety nets to cushion the economic blows. My concern with this as a continuing strategy is that, without additional non-energy sector economic activity, we will eventually reach the dead-end of an empty Treasury.
All of the above means that if a voter leaves home tomorrow, not driven exclusively by tribal loyalty or not sold on the economic prospects offered by one of the two major parties, choice will be on the basis of instinct, unless the voter perceives a candidate presented by one of the many small parties or one-person bands on offer this time, as a conscience vote option.
In his appeal to undecideds made in Chaguanas East, Dr Rowley struck the familiar PNM theme of the moral hazard of a UNC government. He dropped hints again of coming trouble with the police for UNC officials.
How effective will the threat of a morally hazardous UNC be in a country where it is generally believed that both parties make deals with corrupt elements or at least look the other way—the high level of human trafficking in Latinas being the current vivid example?
There is moral hazard in the contact system facilitated by both major parties, which rakes in very big dollars for those in the contact rings.
It is in this context that I have referred to a vote for a candidate other than red or yellow as a conscience vote; but will a vote, if given that way, be “wasted”?
My own instincts are also disturbed by the authoritarian streak in both parties, and more particularly the intemperate attacks on the media. Sure the media gets things wrong, but is it agenda-driven, as is repeatedly claimed?
There remains 24 hours within which to come out from the undecided group. Good luck to our nation.