Absolute political punditry

[Blog post updated on May 27. Put the winners in bold. Noted all winners and noted the ones I got wrong. Added voter margins of each win.]

People who “call the elections” usually have the capacity to do polls, come to the table with an extensive understanding of political history and degrees to match and enjoy some reputation.

I am not one of those people. Because I write editorial leaders for the Trinidad Guardian, I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at the campaigns that have taken place in this country since the turn of the century and looking at the 2010 election in particular.

So here are my election predictions, based on nothing more than a casual remembrance of who these people are in public life, the general public perception of them and, frankly, what they look like in their photographs. I’ve limited my predictions to the candidates of the UNC coalition and PNM.

This is really a test of my theory that the majority of people who show up in a polling station with no strong commitment to one party or another make their choices on nothing more than one or more of my own criteria for judgement.
On May 25th, we’ll all know just how valid a process this might be.
Curious about my prior blogging about politics?
Here you go...
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My punditry puts the election at 30 seats for the People’s Partnership Coalition and the elected representatives of the PNM in my crystal ball are a quite odd grouping indeed.

Please add your own observations using the comments below the post.

Constituency by constituency, the predictions...

Arima
Candidates: Laurel Lezama Lee-Sing, PNM and Roger Samuel, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Arima’s a PNM stronghold and Laurel’s cute. I’ve never heard of Roger Samuel and I’m willing to bet that the folks in Arima haven’t either. Add to that mix the fact that Penelope Beckles has been undeniably gracious in accepting being stricken from the ballot and Lezama Lee-Sing is likely to keep the majority ballot for the PNM that’s been the tradition in the constituency.
Winner: Laurel Lezama Lee-Singh [Roger Samuel won by a margin of 371 votes]

Arouca/Maloney
Candidates: Alicia Hospedales, PNM and Anna Maria Mora, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Tough call. Alicia Hospedales is the incumbent. Anna Maria Mora is a strong contender with serious social intervention credibility. Expect a strong sympathy pull for Hospedales, who was doused in paint by a political dissenter, but Mora is well-known, capable and intelligent. I give her the nod.
Winner: Anna Maria Mora. [Alicia Hospedales won by a margin of 5,374 votes]

Barataria/San Juan
Candidates: Joseph Ross, PNM and Fuad Khan, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Wow. Barataria and San Juan should love Joseph Ross, except that he’s so utterly bland and when he’s not, so reflexively unlikable that Fuad Khan has a real shot at taking this one home. Both men sport likeable public smiles and Joseph Ross has been the public eye a lot as Minister of Tourism, except that may not actually turn out to be an asset if anyone remembers what he’s been saying.
Winner: Joseph Ross. [Fuad Khan won by a margin of 4,108 votes]

Caroni Central
Candidates: Sheila Madoo Kurban, PNM and Glenn Ramadharsingh, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Sheila! What you do them? Glenn’s walking this one home, sorry.
Winner: Glenn Ramadharsingh. [Glenn Ramadharsingh won by a margin of 9,247 votes]

Caroni East
Candidates: Harold Ramoutar, PNM and Tim Gopeesingh UNC-CoP Coalition.
Harold, dude, you have stones. I look at your confidently smiling face and squared shoulders and really wish you well. Tim’s smirk in his campaign photo is, unfortunately, well earned.
Winner: Tim Gopeesingh. [Tim Gopeesingh won by a margin of 11,257 votes]

Chaguanas East
Candidates: Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, PNM and Stephen Cadiz, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Ever since the populous Chaguanas constituency was split in two for the 2007 elections, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid has owned the eastern half. A sensible, articulate man, he has been a low profile but lucid participant in politics since emerging under the PNM banner. Stephen Cadiz has a lot of brand equity as a public voice speaking out for victims of crime. Abdul-Hamid is likeable, but his commodity rates low against the stocks of Cadiz.
Winner: Stephen Cadiz. [Stephen Cadiz won by a margin of 4,080 votes]

Chaguanas West
Candidates: Ronald Heera, PNM and Jack Warner, UNC-CoP Coalition.
I kept looking at Ronald’s photo. What could be going through his head? “Dude, I’m in a UNC stronghold, going up against the legacy of Hulsie Bhaggan and Manohar Ramsaran and the presence of the UNC chief financier Jack Warner. What, you expect me to smile? Okay, here.”
Winner: Jack Warner. [Jack Warner won by a margin of 17,296 votes]

Couva North
Candidates: Nal Ramsingh, PNM and Ramona Ramdial, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Nal, dude, great smile. You know this was Basdeo Panday’s seat, right? You know he’s not a candidate to split the vote, right? Okay, I’ve never heard of Ramona either, but... Nal, come back... You got the photo, right?
Winner: Ramona Ramdial [Ramona Ramdial won by a margin of 10,998 votes]

Couva South
Candidates: Anthony Khan, PNM and Rudy Indarsingh, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Heyyy Anthony! Yes, that’s right, just sit there, nice pose with the chin up. Why Nal just stormed out? Oh just telling him who he’s campaigning against. Oh you? Just some guy named Rudy. Hah, Rudy in Couva South, imagine that, and he’s a trade unionist too, as if that will fly in Couva. Hah! Oh, Rudy stands for Rudranath? He’s a sugar trade unionist? Why don’t people tell us these things? You aren’t going to smile, are you?
Winner: Rudranath Indarsingh. [Rudranath Indarsingh won by a margin of 10,272 votes]

Cumuto/Manzanilla
Candidates: Darryl ‘Japs’ Mahabir, PNM and Collin Partap, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Japs looks like this big strapping guy. I imagine that he runs a transport business and will occasionally lend a truck to help a guy out. Or he could just be a guy who just has a lot of jep nests on his property. He’s up against Harry’s son. Cumuto/Manzanilla’s a new constituency and it’s been UNC so far, so let’s see how the big guy fares.
Winner: Collin Partap. [Collin Partap won by a margin of 5,854 votes]

D’Abadie/O’Meara
Candidates: Karen Nunez-Teshiera, PNM and Anil Roberts, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Here are two people everybody knows. Anil may not be your cup of tea, but Karen’s a strong drink even for the experienced political imbiber.
Winner: Anil Roberts. [Anil Roberts won by a margin of 1,120 votes]

Diego Martin Central
Candidates: Amery Brown, PNM and Nicole Dyer-Griffith, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Everybody knows these two, though their public perception is quite different. Nicole was our beauty queen when the UNC brought the Miss Universe competition to Trinidad and Tobago and Amery’s a generally well-meaning guy who, to his credit, looks out of place in the hardest parries of political repartee and rejoinder. But it’s Diego Martin and his work with the aged and challenged are likely to be a strong pull for older voters.
Winner: Amery Brown. [Amery Brown won by a margin of 999 votes]

Diego Martin North/East
Candidates: Colm Imbert, PNM and Garvin Nicholas, UNC-CoP Coalition.
If there’s anyone who’s more universally disliked than the Prime Minister in this election, it’s Colm Imbert, who is widely regarded as his facilitator in matters of public works. Nobody’s denying the value of the overpass and the water taxis executed under Imbert’s transport portfolio, but oh, the man sooo irritating.
Garvin’s largely a political unknown, despite contesting an election or two in the past, but he has one unerring advantage in Diego Martin North/East and that’s not being Colm Imbert.
Winner: Garvin Nicholas. [Colm Imbert won by a margin of 1,272 votes]

Diego Martin West
Candidates: Keith Rowley, PNM, and Rocky Garcia, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Let’s see now. We have Keith Rowley, the man who faced down the entire infrastructure of the PNM in Parliament to blow the whistle on Udecott and precipitate the crisis of confidence that pretty much led to this election, a man that even annoyed PNM supporters hail as a hero, and we have Rocky Garcia.
Rocky, dude. Try and make up with Winston. He can’t keep asking you to beat Keith Rowley.
Winner: Keith Rowley. [Keith Rowley won by a margin of 754 votes]

Fyzabad
Candidates: Joel Primus, PNM and Chandresh Sharma, UNC-CoP Coalition.
I know Chandresh is a smooth talker and Joel has serious PNM youth league credibility, but my blood doesn’t ken toward either of these guys. Primus in particular, through his writing in the newspapers and speeches strikes me as exactly the kind of troubling apparatchik redshirt that the party has always been danger of breeding.
Winner: Chandresh Sharma. [Chandresh Sharma won by a margin of 5,417 votes]

La Brea
Candidates: Fitzgerald Jeffrey, PNM and Ernesto Kesar, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Labour’s a big issue in La Brea and its environs, but the PNM has been sensible about training people in the area for the jobs that are available in the heavy industries in the area. This has also been a PNM stronghold for decades.
Winner: Fitzgerald Jeffrey. [Fitzgerald Jeffrey won by a margin of 2,469 votes]

La Horquetta/Talparo
Candidates: Nadra Nathai-Gyan, PNM, Jairam Seemungal, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Nadra’s a powerful contender in this constituency, a new one since the redrawing of the boundaries that’s been PNM since it was created. Jairam, meet Rocky. You guys have a lot to talk about. Start by Googling “straw man.”
Winner: Nadra Nathai-Gyan. [Jairam Seemungal won by a margin of 1,079 votes]

Laventille East/Morvant
Candidates: Donna Cox, PNM and Kwasi Mutema, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This is one that’s going to be decided on the ground, but two more contrasting candidates one cannot imagine. The dashiki guy versus the colour contacts sistah.
Winner: Donna Cox. [Donna Cox won by a margin of 7,017 votes]

Laventille West
Candidates: Nileung Hypolite, PNM and Makandal Daaga, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This is one of those seats that’s going to be a bellwether about the real mood of the country. The PNM dude or the NJAC dude? That’s going to be a real indicator of change. I’m guessing not. I’d love to be wrong about this, but, Daaga’s like somebody’s 70’s grandad, isn’t he?
Winner: Nileung Hypolite. [Nileung Hypolite won by a margin of 8,005 votes]

Lopinot/Bon Air West
Candidates: Neil Parsanal, PNM, Dr Lincoln Douglas, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Who is Dr Douglas? I hope that the people of this constituency know, because otherwise Neil’s gonna get a free ride.
Winner: Neil Parsanal. [Lincoln Douglas won by a margin of 1,057 votes]

Mayaro
Candidates: Clifford Campbell, PNM and Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters UNC-CoP Coalition.
Gypsy has brought Mayaro home four times out of the five elections since 2000.
This one’s going to be an uphill climb for Clifford.
Winner: Winston Peters. [Winston Peters won by a margin of 5,516 votes]

Naparima
Candidates: Faiz Ramjohn, PNM and Nizam Baksh, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Nizam’s owned this seat since it was won in the 2000 election by Ralph Maharaj for the UNC. Nobody from the PNM has won this seat since 1971.
Winner: Nizam Baksh. [Nizam Baksh won by a margin of 14,042 votes]

Oropouche East
Candidates: Christin Ramdial, PNM and Roodal Moonilal, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Oropouche has been steadfastly UNC for at least two generations now. The split in the constituency hasn’t changed that at all.
Winner: Roodal Moonilal. [Roodal Moonilal won by a margin of 15,055 votes]

Oropouche West
Candidates: Heather Cedeno, PNM and Stacy Roopnarine, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Oropouche, UNC stronghold. Will that hold true for a girl just out of her teens? Probably.
Winner: Stacy Roopnarine. [Stacy Roopnarine won by a margin of 10,662 votes]

Point Fortin
Candidates: Paula Gopee-Scoon, PNM and Nyahuma M Obika, UNC-CoP Coalition.
PNM through and through. Survived a representative who crossed the floor, and mouthed curses. Not likely to change.
Winner: Paula Gopee-Scoon. [Paula Gopee-Scoon won by a margin of 926 votes]

Pointe a Pierre
Candidates: Christine Kangaloo, PNM and Errol McLeod, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Until Christine came along, there hadn’t been a PNM presence in this constituency since 1991. Against Errol McLeod, who has a strong presence in this part of Trinidad and Tobago, it’s quite likely to swing back.
Winner: Errol McLeod. [Errol McLeod won by a margin of 4,287 votes]

Port of Spain North / St Ann’s West
Candidates: Patricia McIntosh, PNM and Annabelle Davis, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Annabelle’s got the social intervention credibility, Patricia has the educator history. Close call in a PNM stronghold. Will the legacy of the flagman tip things the coalition way? Hmmmm. No.
Winner: Patricia McIntosh. [Patricia McIntosh won by a margin of 2,968 votes]

Port of Spain South
Candidates: Marlene McDonald, PNM and Giselle Russel, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This is the constituency in which I will be voting. I cannot imagine that Marlene McDonald will be returning to government because of the actions of my colleagues. I am not fond of this woman. Not her attitude, not her approach, not her manner. But this was the constituency of Dr Eric Williams and later his namesake, Eric Williams. The only time it left the grasp of the PNM was in the sweep of the NAR in 1986 when Teddy Guerra took the seat.
Winner: Marlene McDonald. [Marlene McDonald won by a margin of 3,047 votes]

Princes Town
Candidates: Annwarie Ramkissoon, PNM and Nela Khan, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Generally a UNC stronghold. Split in 2007 into North and South, with Subhas Panday taking the north and Peter Taylor taking the southern end which was merged with Tableland. It’s one constituency again now. Likely to return to form.
Winner: Nela Khan. [Nela Khan won by a margin of 9,098 votes]

San Fernando East
Candidates: Patrick Manning, PNM and Carol Cuffy-Dowlat, UNC-CoP Coalition.
I’m feeling a big upset here. The sentiments regarding the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, are sharply polarised and this is where it will play out.
Winner: Carol Cuffy-Dowlat. [Patrick Manning won by a margin of 3,627 votes, the PNM political leader commanded 15,004 votes in 2007]

San Fernando West
Candidates: Junior Regrello, PNM and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Junior Regrello is the Eddie Hart of the modern PNM. An easy going guy who works hard, came up through the ranks, has strong credentials in a field entirely unrelated to politics and would be the go to guy for the voter under normal circumstances. These are not normal circumstances.
Winner: Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. [Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan won by a margin of 1,301 votes]

Siparia
Candidates: Vidya Deokiesingh, PNM and Kamla Persad-Bissessar, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Kamla beat every set of odds raised against her. She slapped down Basdeo Panday and Ramesh Lawrence-Maharaj for the post of political leader of the UNC, stepped up to the role forcibly and clearly enough to rally virtually every party existing in opposition to the PNM into an unprecedented coalition.
Vidya, go give Nal and Rocky a pep talk. They need to understand that behind your smile are balls of steel.
Winner: Kamla Persad-Bissessar. [Kamla Persad-Bissessar won by a margin of 2,469 votes]

St Anns East
Candidates: Joanne Thomas, PNM and Verna St Rose Greaves, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This should be a safe bet. St Anns East has been PNM since it was established except for Lincoln Myers’ tenure in the 1986 NAR sweep. I don’t think that will happen this year. Verna’s smart, persuasive and you don’t want her to shake her water bottle at you. No you don’t.
Winner: Verna St Rose Greaves. [Joanne Thomas won by a margin of 2,713 votes]

St Augustine
Candidates: Balchandra Sharma, PNM and Prakash Ramadhar, UNC-CoP Coalition.
UNC seat. Prakash fills it admirably. Balchandra, the lime with Nal, Rocky and the boys is going strong.
Winner: Prakash Ramadhar. [Prakash Ramadhar won by a margin of 11,175 votes]

St Joseph
Candidates: Kennedy Swaratsingh, PNM, and Herbert Volney, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Two more guys I’m not feeling right about at all. Encountered Swaratsingh several times covering the IT efforts of the Ministry of Public Administration and everything about how Herbert Volney entered politics rubs me the wrong way. I don’t envy the voters of the St Joseph constituency having to choose between these two. Vote’s more likely to run on party than personality.
Winner: Herbert Volney. [Herbert Volney won by a margin of 3,057 votes]

Tabaquite
Candidates: Farouk Mohammed, PNM and Suruj Rambachan, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This used to be Adesh Nanan’s seat and it’s never really changed its paradigm.
Winner: Suruj Rambachan. [Suruj Rambachan won by a margin of 8,960 votes]

Tableland/Moruga
Candidates: Augustus Thomas, PNM and Clifton De Coteau, UNC-CoP Coalition.
This is a new constituency [
actually, the constituency was renamed, see comments] in a district which has tended to swing to the UNC.
Winner: Clifton De Coteau. [Clifton DeCoteau won by a margin of 2,469 votes]

Tobago East
Candidates: Gizel Thomas-Roberts, PNM and Verna Alleyne Toppin, UNC-CoP Coalition.
The ways of Tobago are strange but definite. Once Orville London took a stage to apologise for the failings of the PNM in Tobago and to call the annoyance of the crowd with the party on himself, personally, it was clear that something fundamental was wrong over there.
Winner: Verna Alleyne Toppin. [Verna Alleyne Toppin won by a margin of 2,026 votes]

Tobago West
Candidates: Terrence Williams, PNM and Dr Delmon Baker, UNC-CoP Coalition.
People underestimate the power of TOP leader Ashworth Jack appearing in advertisements seated side by side with Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the other opposition party leaders and appearing on the campaign trail in Trinidad. What Tobago wants is parity and more with its sister island and the first step in that process is respect. That’s what Jack is demanding and Tobago will notice it.
Winner: Delmon Baker. [Delmon Baker won by a margin of 882 votes]

Toco/Sangre Grande
Candidates: Eric ‘Pink Panther’ Taylor, PNM and Rupert Griffith, UNC-CoP Coalition.
Toco/Manzanilla used to be PNM town. Only the NAR changed that. Toco/Sangre Grande is more urban, so it should be more so. The PNM now has its own calypsonian on the campaign trail in a remote district. I don’t think it’s going to work.
Winner: Rupert Griffith. [Rupert Griffith won by a margin of 206 votes]

Tunapuna
Candidates: Esther Le Gendre, PNM and Winston Dookeran, UNC-CoP Coalition.
The only person of Indian descent to ever win the Tunapuna seat was Dr Emmanuel Hosein for the NAR and his career didn’t end well. Winston Dookeran is an earnest, powerful name in local politics that’s all too easy to ridicule. Esther Le Gendre has had a spotty time of it since being appointed Minister of Education.
Winner: Winston Dookeran. [Winston Dookeran won by a margin of 2,508 votes]

[Additional observations. The closest margins were Toco/Sangre Grande, with a spread of just 206 votes and Arima, with 371 votes. Qualifying as new marginals, surprisingly enough, are Diego Martin Central and Diego Martin West, with margins of just 999 and 754 respectively. The biggest margin of votes was for Jack Warner, who won Chaguanas East by a comfortable 17,296 votes.]

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