And after Monday’s 22-19 dustup: the PNM plans delivering its 2021 Budget in September rather than October - but that’s contingent on whether a new Government is appointed by Tuesday or Monday.
Word on projected dates came from PNM officials yesterday as ballot box recounts requested by the UNC continue this weekend.
The plateau comes after Monday’s 22-19 election results. A term-battered PNM morphed to steel-focused machine working a plan based on the confines of the COVID-19 landscape led by a roaring leader. Fighting hard and in the end besting. Closely. Swiping popular vote from UNC. But everybody’s votes down.
Moruga out. PNM’s La Brea/Le Hunte candidacy fight ending with victory - but 2,000 less than Nicole Ollivierre’s 11,588 of 2015. But UNC’s 2015 and 2020 results remained the same.
PDP’s Watson Duke’s 5,866 Tobago East votes showing growing anti-PNMism, though PNM Ayanna Webster-Roy’s 7,127 total was down by 800 from her 2015 tally.
How much COVID reduced vote turnout to 58.04 per cent - from the 2015 level of 67.97 per cent- remains to unfold. But clear disenchantment shows both parties are being eyed sharply.
On victory night, PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley, working with term’s assessment, campaigning information - and the huge management responsibility PNM faces ahead- has sought reinforcement on PNM’s future.
Post-Williams era, PNM hasn’t made it through two terms. Rowley’s signal that he won’t be part of the framework beyond 2025 may ease some burden the party carried due to certain unpopularity of his/party term profile. Building on voters’ favourable pronouncement, his statements will now trigger interest on PNM’s future shape.
Safeguarding PNM somewhat, that announcement and PNM’s victory landed double cuffs to the UNC, where leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s dug in. And from this apparently, is being offered to 2025 voters.
Rowley’s move catered to growing demand for freshness on the political landscape. PNM would have recognised this election was the last dance for both parties’ traditional leadership typings. In T&T’s state, a new normal is just that. If some didn’t vote it’s because they found no credible offering beyond what assorted followers and other sectors - including certain level of mercenaries - found attractive.
Persad-Bissessar’s stocks within party may be fine with UNC MPs. But her public image won’t improve, especially considering PNM’s challenges and how they may consequently play the term (as Rowley already signalled). Selection of her national executive as candidates has paid off for her rather than country. And factoring in loss/victory fallout would have been considered in choices - including where threats to a defeated leadership were concerned.
Present lineup’s credentials present absolutely no succession planning. UNC’s Suruj Rambachan, who, pre-poll, lauded Roodal Moonilal for leadership, backpedalled post-poll once the leadership issue became reality.
While Persad-Bissessar tried to rally troops Tuesday saying it was UNC which “handled” PNM during the term, heart of the team that did this was evicted in favour of newbies. Whose votes were lower than previous MPs, raising questions on the size of UNC’s much-touted non-traditional support (That query was answered by those demanding payment in Tunapuna and other seats recently).
In a patently different election, UNC played same old - banking on PNM unpopularity, questionable promises, race, giveaways and candidates whose profile couldn’t outshine negatives. UNC will be judged for playing to populist nerves in a country facing dire challenge. Its present mired state may attract those hoping to reshape. Or not.
But as Rowley’s “future leadership” hint signals a new PNM’s needed, so too does UNC’s latest defeat dictate.
PNM has learned it will have to keep constant touch with “ground.” Its upcoming Budget must balance election promises and hard recovery plans. More immediately, spiralling COVID cases require upgraded measures - whether curtailment, including public transport loads - plus students’ contingencies.
The Opposition’s signal that its 19-seat status will fuel fight is enough for PNM to understand where projected special majority laws and similar other arguments will stand during the term. And the upcoming environment.
For the rest of T&T amid this latest battleground Cold focus. Determined forward.