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Days after Monday’s PNM Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election victory, the PP changed political tack and PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi was the one receiving picong when he entered the Senate chamber yesterday. “Like dey take you for a TOP?!” PP senators asked Al-Rawi concerning his right arm which was in a sling for a torn muscle.
Tuesday’s Lower House session might have been too early after the defeat for PP MPs to be inclined to offer congrats, especially since PNM’s Colm Imbert gloated on the victory at length. By yesterday, though, they’d come around and several PP members offered full-length congratulations to PNMites.
Imbert hadn’t been the only one gloating. After PNM leader Keith Rowley called for PNM’s Tobago action to be picked up in Trinidad, PNMites wearing red balisier shirts were seen Wednesday on Tragerete Road, Independence Square and Arima. Balisier House blazed with celebration Thursday.
For all the weight of PP strength (and money), Ashworth Jack’s TOP and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar were rejected, falling to PNM’s 12-year entrenched incumbency within THA, which employs 50 per cent of Tobagonians, and all that accompanies a clan-based community whose culture and networks clearly aided PNM’s ground game on Monday.
EBC figures showed PNM with 61 per cent of the 32,651 votes cast,70 per cent voter turnout, and 19,919 votes. TOP took 37 per cent with 11,927 and TPT two per cent. PNM showed strongest in the west and TOP the east. PNM’s margin of wins in the 12 seats ranged from 54 per cent to 70 per cent; the TOP’s ranged from 28 to 45 per cent.
PNM leadership sources gleefully said Jack was routed from his Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah seat, specially targeted by Mason Hall families where Rowley has roots. With a movement starting and Tobago PNM avenging PP’s 2010 general election win, PNM’s THA monopoly strengthens opposition foothold, lending a special base of operations.
PNM’s Hilton Sandy’s “Calcutta ship” will, however, ensure this election will be remembered for the race issue despite PNM efforts to skirt, distract or otherwise downplay it, even by jettisoning Sandy. This is understandable since winning among a largely Afro-based electorate in a campaign in which race is perceived to have played a part is a minus for Tobago-born Rowley’s bid to boost his national leadership image.
How the PNM will use the victory’s turbo boost to Rowley’s stocks to work out that issue remains to be seen. Indeed THA members, cognisant of the damage, not only jettisoned Sandy but donned neutral THA colours, blue and white, at Thursday’s inauguration instead of balisier colours.
In a sense PNM’s sweep has undone PP’s unity thrust. It remains to be seen what effect the Tobago takeover, hostile as it is to PP and supporters, will have in various aspects, whether the wedge driven by the fierce (apparently angry) determination of PNMites to keep Tobago PP-free will dissipate or if the PNM’s lobby for increased stocks will enlarge it.
With an unchallenged THA lacking minority leadership checks on governance, Government now has opportunity to monitor PNM’s own pet PP peeve, governance issues. Government may be off the hook in empowering its political rival with self-governance systems since THA’s Orville London absolved Government of this in Tuesday’s television statements .
The campaign showcased the political potential of TOP MP Delmon Baker, tipped to succeed Jack, who energetically demonstrated on the platform the benefits of his recent gastric bypass surgery. If the election has galvanised PNM, the same applies to the PP, despite the political backfoot and facing local government polls soon.
Last Thursday’s Cabinet showed some of that energy, though PP sources added that members blamed PNM strategies and didn’t critique as much Jack’s credibility issues and government’s high campaign profile. It’s now a question whether Monday was the beginning of the PP’s end or regeneration as PP now stands (well and truly) at mid-term crossroads. This might hardly be helped by Jack Warner’s take on the THA election results.
PP officials, however, recognise that what got the PP to this point will not take it forward. It remains to be seen whether PP conditions will facilitate what’s necessary.
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