I know five people who voted for the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) last Monday, and none of them supports Jack Warner.
I myself had not intended to vote in the local government election, but Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan convinced me to go out. When Moonilal questioned why Lyndira Ouditt, the former UNC senator who jumped to the ILP, had been given a managerial post at COSTAATT over two more qualified applicants, I was outraged at Moonilal’s effrontery in being concerned about unqualified party hacks being given well-paid jobs only when those hacks left to hack for somebody else. Then came Ramlogan’s equally hypocritical outrage on the campaign platform about supposedly suspect deals involving ILP deputy political leader Anna Deonarine in which, using a country-bookie accent to emphasise his point, police files were brought into the public domain before investigations were completed.
This made me decide that I should do my bit in Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo to send a message to the UNC. But I didn’t want to vote PNM, because all Keith Rowley has done so far is convince me that, when his party returns to government, they will do exactly the same as all PNM administrations before them: which means not one progressive social policy will be implemented. So, as a strategy for sending a message to both UNC and PNM about proper representation, I put my X by the ILP. And the other four people, who voted ILP in San Fernando and Diego Martin, did so for pretty much the same reasons. Corruption was merely Hobson’s Choice for us, since all the parties promote cronyism as basic policy.
In light of this, some commenters have suggested that there should be a None of the Above (NOTA) option on the ballot paper. This idea has been embraced in the public discourse, with nearly three-quarters of callers to Dale and Tony’s morning show on I95.5 saying they would come out to vote NOTA. These callers were, of course, lying. People do not usually bestir themselves to take action which will have no effect.
In any case, NOTA does not address the basic problems of our election system, since the one-person one-vote approach is the least effective for democratic outcomes. The mathematician Kenneth Arrow, who won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics, created the Impossibility Theorem which proves that an ideal voting system cannot exist. Arrow’s proof demonstrates that Plurality Voting (and most other types) cannot meet these basic conditions for a fair election: (1) that a voter who prefers PNM to UNC and the UNC to the ILP, must prefer the PNM to the ILP (in logic, this is called “transitivity”); (2) if every single voter prefers Kamla Persad-Bissessar to Keith Rowley, then Kamla should beat Rowley in the final tally; (3) when there are two alternatives in which one is preferred, the addition of a third alternative should not change the original preference; and (4) voters always vote for their preferred candidate, not strategically (as in voting for PNM when they prefer the Congress of the People, because they don’t think the COP can win).
In his book Gaming the Vote, writer William Poundstone explains, “To some extent, Arrow’s theorem refutes the notion of ‘the will of the people’...A decisive voting system will come up with a winner, but the winner may differ from the winner decided under another voting system that also sounds fair and reasonable.”
This is why even the very limited proportional representation system used in this LGE seems, if anything, to have solidified the dominance of the winning party. When the PR change was first bruited, not one political commentator or political analyst, to my knowledge, mentioned that PR works more effectively with a Single Transferable Vote system, where candidates are ranked in order of preference, unpopular candidates are eliminated and their votes transferred to other candidates until a majority is achieved. An alternative approach for PR is Cumulative Voting, in which each voter gets a number of votes to distribute among candidates.
But all this is moot unless citizens have something to vote for, which is where NOTA might either make them change their approach or paralyse government. However, it appears as though our politicians don’t learn from their errors. After all, since the swing voters in marginal constituencies now decide electoral victory, it would seem logical to court the votes of those people who, like the five persons mentioned above, vote strategically rather than for party. Many such individuals could be won over by a party which promised enlightened policies, such as raising the marriage age from 12 and 14 years, gay rights, updating the abortion law, eliminating the death penalty, and so on.
This, however, is not a constituency that is considered by any political party or politician. Which is why politicians spend millions to preach to the converted, and why the country’s problems remain unsolved.