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Magic formula needed to energise voters

Trinidad Express / The recently concluded local government elections did not anticipate the historic low voter turnout even though low voter turnout has become the hallmark of most if not all local government elections. The national population simply does not appear to think that local government elections are as important as the general elections and just simply refuse to come out. Ironically it is the local government representative that can have the most direct impact on the lives of the citizenry with simple things as garbage collections, etc. As such it is now critically important to all political parties to put their collective minds to address this voter apathy and to attempt to get the magic formula to energise the voters. Sadly in this election this formula remains undiscovered by both of the major parties (UNC/PNM). Both sides claimed electoral victory following the local elections, but it is clear to all that the population lost with the pathetic turnout. With predictable low voter turnout, its remains only to the party faithful to respond to the battle-cry which they did in record low numbers. Mobilisation of these persons is key to electoral victory in local government elections. Historically the myth has always been that the PNM has the most organised electoral machinery, while the UNC has always been accused of not investing in institutions and the planning process. This year’s local elections if you ask most will be defined in one word “roti”. The badgering of the Prime Minister during the time allocated for Prime Minister’s question Member of Parliament Barry Padarath elevated the murmuring about the alleged cost of functions by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration to a deafening crescendo. The salacious turn fixed the attention of the politicians, media and forced on unsuspecting population. This provided the opening for the well-ridden and emotive electoral template of race-politics to emerge as a major discussion point as it angered both sides of the racial divide. To their respective credit both major political parties attempted to discuss serious issues on their platforms. The PNM had its major plank reform of the local government system while the UNC was asking the population to use the local government as a referendum on the year-old government especially on the issues of crime and the economy. Ironically these issues in general have little or no relevance to local elections. For example the PNM plank of reform of the local government system is an issue that has to be debated in the House of Representatives and winning or losing will not affect its passage in the House of Representatives. The most that can be said is that the issue of local government reform as presented by the PNM appeared to be met with the approval of the electorate that bothered to come out. The minor parties of the MSJ and NSA had serious discussion on a variety of issues that just struggled to make news. The launch of the local government manifesto by the UNC sadly did not add to the political conversation. Unfortunately, these issues were just not sexy enough, it seems. The PNM, on the other hand, did not even bother to launch a manifesto on local government issues. The relevance of printed paper manifestos and other aspect of traditional elections in an age of social media is changing with changing perceptions of the populace. The question remains to be answered is that the collective media knowing that the population would not get worked about serious issues only focused on bacchanal instead. Or is that the population only responding to bacchanal and not serious issues forced and dictated to the media to cover what animates them. Local government as a product does not meet the expectations of its target market and as such they do not respond to the sales pitch and just do not buy the product. The significance of the local government and its consequential impact on the lives of nationals does not exist in the minds of most or at least not enough to get them to go out and vote. The political parties were selling a product which in this local government elections appeared that no one wanted to purchase. Devant Maharaj via e-mail

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