Commentary: Political Dirty Tricks

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By Dr Neil Gosine

THE People National Movement (PNM) is gearing up hard for the marginals and is going to throw everything into the upcoming elections in 2025. One thing the PNM machinery is good at is propaganda and they have mastered the art of many of the dirty tricks used to persuade the masses in their favour. 

Here are some of the tactics used in the marginals to captivate and capture the power in the East-West corridor. 

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One that had been used in St Joseph against many of the United National Congress (UNC) candidates is what we call the “Whisper Campaigns”. Where they use rumours, and outrageous slander statements that are put out in social media platforms that are designed with the intention  to damage the reputations of the UNC candidate and prevent financiers from funding and support.

As the allegations are now made public, the candidate is caught in what we know as a Catch-22: if the candidate tries to defend himself by these rumours, it calls more attention to the issue. If the candidate tries to not say anything or ignores the slanderous rumours, the campaign is only more damaged by the festering scandal. 

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Another effective one is what we call “Push polling” which makes telephone calls to registered voters to really communicate negative messages and false information to confuse the electorate. Under the guise of conducting a legitimate poll, libelous or otherwise defamatory messages is conveyed designed to prevent voters from coming out in their numbers to support their party.

Underground practices or what we call “the grounds team” that are designed to paint up everywhere or pull down posters and banners of their opponents is another effective tool. They destroy the expensive banners and posters of the opponents and disrupt their campaign to compete in a very unethical manner. The PNM strategic team and their sycophants including their candidate allegedly on the down low condone the removal of posters, ripping down and destroying their opponents campaign materials and by throwing paint over posters and banners thereby trying to stifle the opponent’s message. This is a very effective way to make their opponents feel violated and unbalanced in their campaign. 

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They also try to allegedly interfere with the Electoral Process. These despicable practices are used to put up obstacles to a citizen’s ability to vote and interfere with our democratic right of free and fair elections. Destruction of campaign materials, deliberately causing traffic jams and communication problems on Election Day is a common practice used by the strategist. They use voter intimidation at the polling station or at the mock station and all these mechanisms are all strategically done to interfere and ensure a win at the polls. Any tactics designed to discourage voting are unethical but effective and have been used to push the votes in their favour.

The last one I want to talk about is what is called the “October Surprise” which is continuously used in the marginal seats especially in the St Joseph seat. The “October surprise” is a term that we know in the business as a negative attack that comes out just a day or two before an Election Day. This gives the opponent very little or no time to respond to the slanderous allegations so the opponent cannot even come back with a denial or rational explanation. Usually it is very outlandish such as the candidate committed a criminal act against a person or stole money or is involved with gangsters and this attack is designed to discredit the candidate and put doubt in the electorate minds. These allegations are required to be timed in such a way as to allow no response. Thereby causing confusion and embarrassment and for the voters to give a second thought of the credibility of the candidate. 

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That is why it is so important to allow independent observers at the general elections. Election observation is an indispensable tool for improving the fairness of elections. Observers help build credibility and ensure that fairness is observed and give the public confidence in the electoral processes.

Observation is designed to promote and protect the civil and political rights of everyone, especially the opposing parties in elections. It can assist in the protection against  errors, dirty tricks or weak practices, and even while an election process is going on it can identify the problems. It is designed to prevent manipulation or fraud and that is why the Government must agree to have independent observers for the 2025 general elections. We can not accept No as an answer!

Neil Gosine is an insurance executive. He was appointed a temporary Opposition Senator and is also the treasurer of the UNC and a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago. He has also been the campaign manager for the UNC candidate in the St Joseph Constituency. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.

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