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Trinidad & Tobago: Giving the Government the Finger?

Today, Trinidadians went to the polls in the much-anticipated Local Government Elections. Polls suggest growing dissatisfaction with the governing People's Partnership coalition, whose opponents consist of two parties – the People's National Movement, which currently sits in opposition in Parliament, and Jack Warner's controversial Independent Liberal Party. Although much of the electioneering has deftly avoided discussion of pressing issues, focusing instead on picong and personal attacks, netizens have been posting Facebook status updates about the importance of voting, with many uploading photos of ink-stained fingers as proof of having done their civic duty.

Danielle Dieffenthaler, for instance, posted this finger pic with the comment:

WELL! That was between the devil and the deep blue sea!

Samantha Bhopa's was a bit more optimistic, as she snapped a photo of her indigo fingertip next to a sign that reads “Hope”. Her photo caption: “Duty done.”

Prior to the opening of the polls this morning, Rhoda Bharath posted a few status updates about some of the issues that would be influencing her vote:

NQ and Wasagate. Still total silence from the NQ Board and the officials at Wasa.

Public officials believe themselves above the law and some feel resigning from a board makes them immune from responsibility.

Others may forget, I bloody well won't!

Discussing the topic of public health services, she linked to this article and commented:

I paying health surcharge and can't get decent health care and like Fuad Khan hand finney or have pox.
Anybody head roll since he is Minister?

Bright and early this morning, Bharath shared this status update:

Good Morning, Folks.
Today is the day I send a Message to the People's Partnership.

My Sanity depends on it.
My Integrity depends on it.
My Future in this country depends on it.

# for the future!
#goodgovernance
#VoteLikeATobagonian!

Ian Ramjohn, a diaspora Facebook user, observed:

With Local Government Elections in Trinidad today, I'm pondering the Jack Warner phenomenon. Given the accusations against him, why is his party (the ILP) a credible alternative? There's a ‘people stupid’ option. There's a protest vote (can't vote UNC or PNM). But there's also an ‘honest crook’ option: if you assume all pols are crooks, should specific allegations of wrongdoing (accepting bribes, not paying taxes) weigh on your decision more than non-specific ones? At the other end of the continuum is the ‘badjohn’ theory – that Warner's (alleged) lawbreaking actually enhances his reputation.

I'm not in TT, so I can't evaluate the last option (but I have not gotten that impression). Normally, I'd expect the drip-drip of accusations to sink Warner. But if the corruption allegations are already factored in to people's decision, then I'd expect the ILP to do as well as they've polled (or better). In addition, it seems like the mudslinging has hurt the UNC more. If so, who benefits – ILP, PNM or what's left of the COP? It will be interesting to see.

Khara Persad, via Twitter, linked to a news report that alleges that the ILP was unfairly soliciting votes:

Natasha [surname withheld], a Facebook user who lives in the North-West of the island, defended her right to not vote at all:

I am a responsible citizen who has attempted to wisely exercise my franchise. However, I have come to realise the choice NOT to vote is also a statement. They really needed to put a ‘none of the above’ on the ballot.

She was also disillusioned about the candidates’ avoidance of the issues:

So should I vote for you on the basis of your jingle? Your flag waving ability? The loudness of your music truck and how many car alarms you managed to set off? Or perhaps I should vote based on your good looks? Because there was little mention of real issues or solutions or even positions other than how high or low we should jump.

Twitter, under the hashtags #lge #trinidad, had quite a few updates about the elections. As early as a week ago, Spicy Crispy George could see the way things were shaping up:

Based on the quality of campaigning for these Local Government Elections, Liz Mannette held very little hope for the general elections campaign, due in two years’ time:

There were some interesting predictions about the election results, like this one tweeted by Indira Dookharan:

There was also some commentary about the fact that much of the campaigning centered around a Carnival-like atmosphere, with loud music blaring from moving trucks while supporters waved flags and danced. TriniBerry.com tweeted:

Impact on Governance posed a few key questions:

The group also chastised the media for its coverage of the election campaigning:

They closed the day's discussion on Twitter with a pertinent question:

The answer will be revealed once the ballots are counted.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Georgia Popplewell, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Georgia Popplewell's flickr photostream.

All private Facebook status updates in this post have been quoted with permission.

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