INCREASED MARGIN: Pennelope Beckles

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By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

Two polls commissioned on the upcoming People’s National Movement (PNM) internal elections conclude that if a general election were held today, a Pennelope Beckles-led PNM would win with a greater margin than the party’s political leader Dr Keith Rowley.
The polls however do not address who would win the party’s internal election to be held on May 18.
The first poll was conducted November 21-25, 2013 and the second poll from January 13-15, 2014.
The November poll concluded that a Rowley-led PNM would win a general election at 46 per cent compared to the People’s Partnership at 30 per cent. However, if Beckles wins the internal leadership election, she would increase that margin to 49 per cent to the Partnership’s 29 per cent.
The three per cent advantage also represents the margin of error for that poll.
However, the January poll concluded: “If a Rowley-led PNM were to contest a general election against the Partnership without Pennelope Beckles, it would fare worse than a Beckles-led PNM facing the Partnership without Keith Rowley.”
It noted that Beckles has attracted voters from Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
“Ms Beckles is seen as more able to unite people than Mr Rowley although Mr Rowley is still favoured among those who voted for the PNM,” the poll stated.
The polls were conducted by Solution by Simulation, owned by Nigel Henry, whose polls successfully predicted the outcome of the four elections last year—the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections, the two by-elections in Chaguanas West and St Joseph and the local government elections.
Henry told the Express yesterday that while Beckles polled better she was not in the lead within the PNM. He noted that among PNM supporters, Dr Rowley was polling better.
“The poll shows that whatever lead she has is really among the ILP supporters,” he said.
The November poll interviewed 708 people by telephone in marginal districts. The margin of error was 3.8 per cent.
The January poll interviewed 673 people by telephone with a 3.9 per cent margin of error.
Henry told the Express that this poll was paid for by a group called TnT United.
However, the November poll stated that it was commissioned by Raymond Habib.
Contacted by the Express yesterday on why he commissioned the poll, Habib said: “I believe that poll was commissioned by Mr Montano (Danny). I do not know why my name would be there.”
Montano, in a telephone interview with the Express, declared his support for Beckles.
Montano did not confirm that he paid for the first poll. Instead, he explained that a group of people in support of Beckles “decided to do this” to lend her support in her bid to challenge Dr Rowley for the leadership of the 58 year-old party.
Montano said the information from the polls showed that Beckles is a worthy opponent.
Questioned on whether he would contest the chairmanship in a Beckles slate, he said that no such discussion has been had as yet.
PNM public relations officer, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, yesterday described the poll as a “neat trick on an internal election competitor to skip the conversation as to who the front runner is and the margin that front runner enjoys. It avoids the frontal issue of who is best suited and most capable and preferred candidate for the issue of leadership of the PNM in a PNM election.
“This particular poll is a distraction. The PNM position, as polled by us, puts Dr Rowley ahead of Beckles. Those polls commissioned by us do so on the basis of track records between Dr Rowley and Penny.”
“It has always been and will continue to be Rowley/PNM strategy to deal with internal election first and then demonstrate what the powerhouse items we will bring to a general election issue will be. We separate both in strategy and in roll out, the difference between a PNM internal election campaign and a national general election campaign.
“We are absolutely confident that when the population sees the material we intend to bring out into the public domain, Dr Rowley’s margin would not be 46 per cent to 30 per cent to the People’s Partnership but closer to 56 to 60 per cent,” he said.
Questioned on whether there was any division within the PNM, Al-Rawi responded: “I can genuinely say that there is no division from my perspective.”
Last August, former Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing had also signalled his intent to challenge Dr Rowley for leadership but has not followed through on it.
Last Thursday, Beckles officially confirmed she would contest the post of political leader on the PNM, which she said was fuelled by love for people and country.
Under Rowley, the PNM defeated the Partnership in three out of four elections held in 2013.
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