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Kamla loses; Rowley is new Trinidad and Tobago PM

Keith Rowley

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN).-The People’s National Movement’s fourth leader, Dr Keith Rowley, now Prime Minister-elect, will be T&T’s second Tobago-born Prime Minister following yesterday’s 2015 general election victory.

Rowley follows Tobago-born late Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson into history in this regard.

Mammoth cheers from supporters went up at PNM’s Balisier House headquarters at 11.40 pm last night when PNM chairman Franklin Khan announced the party’s election result victory, adding: “I now invite to address you, the new Prime Minister of T&T.” 

Speaking to the media just before the announcement, Rowley had said: “We have been tracking these results and the PNM would have won the elections and from tomorrow (today) T&T will have a new government…the PNM has come out with the majority of seats…tonight is the beginning of another era.”

Rowley said the PNM had won 22 or 23 of the 41 constituencies. Results for the Moruga Tableland constituency were still incoming when he spoke.

Later on it was unofficially announced that the PNM had taken the election 23-18, pending the official release of that information by the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

The PNM takes the helm from the People’s Partnership, which now forms the Opposition, with 18 seats and which won the popular vote despite the PNM’s win in the majority of constituencies.

The PP crossed 300,000-plus votes while the PNM received 200,000-plus, it was estimated.

Outgoing prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar conceded at midnight at her Siparia office, speaking after Rowley made his victory speech. She said the people’s wishes must be respected as the people had chosen.

Sounding upbeat throughout her speech, she added: “I’m happy to be Citizen Kamla, MP for Siparia, all over again. I believe we fought a good fight.”

Persad-Bissessar noted the PP had obtained the popular vote. She said she would not stop serving the people, that the PP was still strong and that there would be healthy Opposition in the Parliament,

Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar also said he hoped Rowley was sincere. He said what politicians did hereon would determine how successful T&T would be.

Jack Warner’s Independent Liberal Party (ILP) lost its bid in all the seats it contested, even though Warner at the close of polls had projected his party might have won “one to three seats.”

But the United National Congress’ Ganga Singh re-took the Chaguanas West seat which Warner held from 2010 to yesterday — in and out of government — and Warner also lost his bid for Chaguanas East, which was won by UNC’s Fazal Karim.

Warner told reporters that was his last hurrah in politics during his concession speech at the party’s Chaguanas headquarters last night. (See Page A8)

The seats which gave the PNM its election victory were St Joseph, Toco-Manzanilla, Tunapuna, La Horquetta-Talparo and San Fernando West, apart from its traditional constituencies.

The PP maintained its traditional holdings, with the UNC taking 17 seats and COP leader Ramadhar winning the St Augustine seat, a total of 18.

Inclement weather throughout all of T&T marred yesterday’s exercise, though heavy voting patterns with a continuous flow of voters was seen all morning in polling stations.

Rains which began mid-morning and continued to late evening prompted the PNM to seek to have the EBC extend the close of poll time from 6 pm to 7 pm in Trinidad, though not Tobago.

This was the second time since 1961 that the close of poll deadline was extended from 6 pm to 7 pm. It was last done in December 1961 due to problems with voting machines.

Long campaign

After the long three-month campaign period of the 2015 general election ended yesterday, trends began emerging around 9 pm, with the PP leading in 19 seats and the PNM in 16. By 9.20 pm the PP was leading in 21 seats and the PNM in 18.

At that time it became clear that Toco-Manzanilla, Tunapuna and St Joseph were in the balance.

At 9.30 pm the first two seats to be declared went to the PNM: Tobago West (Shamfa Cudjoe) and Tobago East (Ayanna Webster-Roy).

By 10 pm, Siparia was declared for PP’s Persad-Bissessar, who received over 15,000 votes. She thanked supporters for her victory there.

However, by 10.30 pm, the numbers flipped and the PNM surged ahead in La Horquetta-Talparo, St Joseph and Tunapuna.

The final declarations came at just after 11 pm. By that time, PNM supporters at a crowded Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, had started celebrating while disappointed PP supporters at Rienzi Complex, Couva, had started to leave when Persad-Bissessar failed to show up.

Rowley, during his victory statement, again warned that difficult times were ahead. He said his first priorities were the swearing in of an attorney general, whom he declined to identify, and the delivery of the 2016 Budget. 

EBC spokesman Dominic Hinds said last night they couldn’t give a voter turn-out until around noon today. He also said figures were preliminary.

The 2015 electorate was 1,099,279. In 2010 voter turnout was approximately 69 per cent of the 936,236 electorate.

Both the PNM and PP claimed irregularities occurred at various places in yesterday’s exercise.