People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Fitzgerald Hinds celebrates with party supporters last night in Port of Spain. Photo: Micheal Bruce/Trinidad Express
By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad [UPDATE] -- “We have won,” declared Keith Rowley, the political leader of the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), as preliminary results in Monday’s local government elections in Trinidad showed the PNM emerging with 8 of the 14 corporations up for grabs.
As predicted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll, the PNM retained the three corporations it held in the 2010 election and picked up five more, giving it control of eight corporations so far.
The poll showed the opposition party having an edge going into the elections because of the split in votes by the newly formed Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
The PNM is said to have won eight corporations including Diego Martin, Port of Spain, San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco, Arima, Sangre Grande and San Fernando.
Rowley said the party did so well that it lost narrowly in Siparia; and polled high in Chaguanas, both United National Congress (UNC) strongholds.
“The PNM is accustomed to being in adverse conditions but we do not stay there,” asserted Rowley in a news conference post his election victory.
The opposition leader sent a warning to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that her party’s defeat in this election means her government has collapsed. He reminded her that it is her third election defeat in one year, beginning with the Tobago House of Assembly elections, followed by the Chaguanas West by-election and now the local government elections.
The incumbent People’s Partnership (PP) coalition won five corporations: Princess Town, Penal/Debe, and Rio Claro/Mayaro, Siparia, Couva, Tabaquite-Talparo.
All indications are that the Chaguanas Corporation is going to be a hung corporation, with the votes splitting between the UNC, ILP and PNM.
While the two major parties, the PNM and PP coalition remain the big players in the political landscape, Jack Warner’s 4 months old ILP, which did not win any of the corporations, picked up a few councilors.
In what had all the characteristics of a victory speech, Persad-Bissessar told supporters the PP was able to hold on to its heartland support. Persad-Bissessar said it was not time for bitterness nor to brew over defeat, but it was time to serve the people. She cautioned her MPs and councilors to keep their feet on the ground and stay connected to the people.
Warner’s ILP, which created a scare mostly for the PP coalition of which he was formerly a part, ran a close race in Chaguanas, the stomping ground of his newly formed party. Political analyst Martin George said Warner’s loss of that corporation should be a blow to his party.
Putting a nice face on his defeat, Warner declared to his supporters: “We have become the third political force in the country” as his ILP defeated the COP in many of the municipalities contested.
Warner told his supporters it is no time for long faces as his party accomplished a lot in just over four months. Responding to chants from the crowd, Warner said, “Win, lose or draw, the ILP is my home.”
The PP's coalition partner, the Congress of the People (COP), lost all the corporations it contested, mostly to the PNM, in some cases both to the PNM and ILP, while the Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdullah conceded defeat as well.
All three political leaders, Warner, Rowley and Persad-Bissessar, congratulated each other and started gearing up supporters for the St Joseph by-election on November 4.
According to political analyst Indera Sagewan-Alli, the three parties, the PNM, PP coalition and ILP, all had successes in the elections, suggesting that the PP coalition held on to its base support, with the PNM holding on to its three corporations and picking up more, while the newly formed ILP broke ground and made inroads in the political landscape.
Up to late Monday night, the PNM won the popular vote with 43.8%, followed by the PP coalition 32.5%, with the ILP getting 23.7% of the votes.
Under the proportional representation system the prime minister said the aldermen will create the balance of power. Opposition leader Keith Rowley holds a different view; he said the proportional representation method will lead to chaos, minority rule and general instability.
Aldermen were being elected on Monday through proportional representation -- four per corporation. So while 136 councilors will get elected on Monday, another 56 members of the local government system will be returned in a few days when the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) tallies the votes for aldermen.
Voting in two polling stations was suspended on Monday and final results of the elections may not therefore be known until probably Wednesday at the latest.
The voting in those polling stations will resume on Tuesday, according to a statement from the EBC.
“The Elections and Boundaries Commission (Commission) has ordered the immediate suspension of voting at Polling Station No. 4696 located at the Guapo Government Primary School in the Electoral District of Techier/Guapo and also at Polling Station No. 4730 located at the Point Fortin R.C. Primary School in the Electoral District of Newlands/Mahaica…. Voting at these stations will resume tomorrow, Tuesday 22nd October 2013, between the hours of 6.00 am and 6.00 pm," the EBC said in a statement.
The EBC said the suspension became necessary after it was discovered that a number of electors had voted using the wrong ballot papers in those Polling Stations. The commission is currently conducting an investigation into the matter.
“The candidates contesting the election in the electoral district and officers of their parties have been informed. Announcements advising electors of this change shall be made by mobile public address systems within each Polling Division on Tuesday 22nd October, 2013.
“All persons whose names are on the Revised List of Electors for polling stations 4696 and 4730 will be allowed to vote on Tuesday. This includes those electors who had voted before the error was discovered," the EBC said.