At 1 pm Monday, long before voting for the Local Government Elections comes to an end, the UNC is predicting that the PNM is likely to win the La Romaine seat. If this happens, it means the PNM will enter into the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation—a UNC stronghold.
The cautious prediction was made by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal during an interview with reporters outside the Gulf View Community Centre where he cast his ballot after noon on Monday.
Asked to give an overview of the voting process, Moonilal said there were reports of irregularities which were being addressed by the party's lawyers.
Having walked the ground, Moonilal said the party was looking at the newly created La Romaine seat as a challenge. This seat falls under the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation which straddles the Oropouche East, Oropouche West, Siparia and Naparima constituencies.
Moonilal explained that the La Romaine seat was created following boundary shifts by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
Because of the shift, Moonilal said, there was a possibility that it may bring enough votes for the PNM to have an alderman at the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation.
"I have been working in the La Romaine electoral district so I know the challenges. The boundaries have changed and this is a new seat. It's a tough district to contest because of the boundary changes," Moonilal said.
He added that if the votes swung in favour of the PNM, there could be a PNM voice in the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation which has nine seats, all of which are currently held by the UNC.
Moonilal noted that this was not the first time that the PNM could have a foothold in the UNC-led corporation. More than a decade ago, councillor Diptee Ramnath contested under the PNM and won his seat
"It is foreseeable that the PNM can get an alderman but we are hoping that we can get the votes. We are cautiously optimistic that it will go to UNC," Moonilal added.
According to Moonilal, the party had a hectic ground campaign.
"The UNC will get out the votes. This election will tell us and the PNM as well as how much we still have to do. This is really a test piece a rehearsal dressing for the general election," he added.
But Moonilal said there were certain irregularities which had to be addressed.
"We had a problem where police officers who in their zeal to assist EBC staff were handling EBC materials and we spoke to the police and it was sorted out. We also had illegal mock stations and campaigning on the road." He was hopeful that voting would have picked up by the afternoon period.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar also said the new La Romaine seat presented a challenge.
Speaking to reporters after casting her ballot at the Hermitage Presbyterian School, Persad-Bissessar said she was watching the La Romaine seat closely.
"Because of the change in boundaries La Romaine is a very marginal seat. The same thing happened in the Siparia Corporation, they took a UNC seat and made it into a marginal. In the San Juan area, there were boundary changes that clearly worked against us. La Romaine is a challenge but we will wait to see," she added.
Oropouche West MP Vidya Gayadeen-Gopeesingh, who also voted at the Gulf View Community Centre with Moonilal, said she was also hopeful that the voter turnout will increase as the day progressed.