The ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) yesterday lost significant ground in Tobago House of Assembly (THA) polls and also lost one seat in Trinidad by-elections.
The PNM lost a handful of seats to the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and tied with the Watson Duke led party for control of the THA. And the PNM also lost the Arima Central district to the United National Congress (UNC) in yesterday’s local government by-elections
Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who was in Tobago last night, didn’t address supporters or the media. Instead, Tobago PNM Council leader Tracey Davidson-Celestine, speaking at 10.10 pm, announced the outcome of yesterday’s elections.
“The PNM has retained six seats and we congratulate all candidates. The outcome is not one we’re quite satisfied with but at this point, we’re still thankful,” she said.
Davidson-Celestine said the election had not yet been declared but the results were trending in the 6/6 direction.
“We have to wait to see what direction this 6/6 will take us,” she said.
During the campaign, the PNM had asked Tobagonians to give the party a “birthday gift” by voting for them yesterday, one day after the party celebrated its 65th anniversary on Sunday.
An ecstatic PDP leader Farley Augustine, who was in a Roxborough motorcade celebrating at 10.15 pm, said: “We’re elated! We have tied. We knew that NACTA poll (which claimed PNM would have won) was bogus all the time. This is a new day!”
Augustine said the law is silent on how control of the THA would be worked out if there was a tied result.
“We don’t know at this point what may take place,” he added.
The law indicates that Assemblymen have to get together to choose a Chief Secretary.
Yesterday’s 11th THA election to fill 12 seats was a tight, hard race between the PNM and the PDP.
The PDP had an arrangement with the Tobago Forwards and several of the new seats the party took from PNM were in areas which traditionally were anti-PNM.
In the last term, the PNM held 10 of the 12 THA seats, while the PDP held two seats in Tobago East districts. Last night the PDP took four more seats which PNM had held, ending up with six seats.
PDP won Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah, Bethel/Mt Irving, Goodwood/Belle Garden and Plymouth/Golden Lane.
Questions about Chief Secretary
Augustine retained the Parlatuvier/L’Anse/ Fourmi/Speyside and Duke retained his Roxborough/Delaford seat.
By 9.35 pm, PNM Tobago chairman Stanford Callendar said the PNM had won six seats: Caanan /Bon Accord, Buccoo /Mt Pleasant, Bacolet/Mt St George, Scarborough /Calder Hall, Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden and Lambeau/Signal Hill.
Davidson-Celestine won Lambeau-Signal Hill but the fact that the PNM slipped so much, has raised questions about her leadership and her bid to become the THA’s first female Chief Secretary.
Callendar said the party would likely seek a recount in the Bethel/Mt Irvine seat which PNM appeared to have lost to PDP by a dozen-odd votes.
If the situation remains at a 6/6 tie, Callendar couldn’t say what would be used to determine who would control the THA. He said the Constitution is silent on that.
Former PNM member Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus who left the party and contested independently in Scarborough/Calder Hall didn’t win. The PNM retained that seat.
UNC grabs Arima Central
The UNC was jubilant last night after taking Arima Central from the PNM.
Yesterday’s five by-elections were held to fill vacancies created after three PNM and two UNC councillors become Members of Parliament following the August 2020 general election but the UNC ended up with three of the seats.
By 8.52 pm a jubilant UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared victory in Cunupia and Hindustan/St Mary’s, which the party retained, and announced that they had wrested Arima Central from the PNM.
“God is great, thank you to the voters. We go forward fortified and strengthened to the Parliament with our no-confidence motion against the incompetent National Security Minister Stuart Young,” she declared.
Persad-Bissessar said the UNC had won with more votes in the seats than it did before.
Hinds: We win some, we lose some
The PNM retained the two of the seats it previously held, with Jinelle Schulere-Smart in Morne Coco/Alyce Glen) and Leslie Chang Fong, Hollywood.
Deputy leader Fitzgerald Hinds admitted at 9.30 pm that the party had expected to hold three seats, including Arima Central. He said something might have mitigated against the target.
“But we win some we lose some, we’ve been there before. What we do after is a post-mortem to see our strengths and soft spots and use our experience to examine things whether it means rearranging people or policy,” he said.