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UWI lecturer on 2011 census: Mixed-race figures can change voting pattern in T&T
The view that there is race-based voting in T&T is a mere “illusion,” says Dr Fuad Khan, Minister of Health and UNC MP for the Barataria/San Juan constituency. “We do not have race-based voting in T&T. We have political party voting. The illusion of race voting comes from the fact that the large ethnic groups historically support either political party. But race is not a huge factor, it is less that five per cent,” Khan told the T&T Guardian on Wednesday.
In the 2011 Population and Housing Census Demographic Report results released on Tuesday, the latest statistics show almost a quarter of T&T is racially mixed, giving rise to the phenomenon of T&T as a country of “minority races.” According to the census, 22.8 per cent or approximately 302,788 people in T&T are racially mixed. East Indians comprise 35.4 per cent of the population while people of African descent form 34.2 per cent.
Of the “mixed” category, 7.7 per cent refer to themselves as Douglas and 15.1 per cent are mixed but not Indian/African. All other ethnic groups totalled 1.4 per cent while 6.2 per cent of the population did not declare an ethnicity. University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer and economist Hayden Blades said the census results should now be used as a platform to determine voting patterns in the future.
“I think it helps us to move us away from this ethnically based voting pattern. It is difficult to say. In many ways we still have a significantly large section of the population that are sensitive to race when voting but the census may in fact provide us with some room to spend more time discussing issues rather than race when it comes to voting,” he said.
He remained “hopeful” voters would move away from race-based voting.
“All I can do is hope that these statistics would be the foundation of us moving away from racial voting,” he said. Vernon de Lima, member of the Congress of the People (COP) and its former deputy chairman, meanwhile, said it was “wonderful” that almost a quarter of the population are racially mixed and he believes this “third force” will continue to have a major impact on the political landscape of the country.
He said racially mixed voters have always been represented in different incarnations of political parties in the history of the country. “In the last two to five elections there was a trend building up where by that third force of the racially mix persons was building all the time,” he said. “It was called ONR, the NAR in the past and nowadays it is the COP. That third force is becoming extremely important in any election. In a few years that 22.8 per cent of the population that is mixed would be 25 per cent.”
Contacted on the matter on Wednesday, political scientist Dr Selwyn Ryan did not want to comment on the subject at this time, as he said the matter requires in-depth analysis as it is a complex topic.
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