People’s National Movement, 22, United National Congress, 19 – but the UNC’s not conceding
It’s now over to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to undertake a recount which the UNC has demanded in at least three marginal seats.
That’s the preliminary outcome of yesterday’s historic “Pandemic Poll” in which the PNM won 22 seats.
While the UNC lost, it gained Moruga among its 19 seats and has sought to call the “shot” on the official end of the election with its recount bid.
An elated PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley claimed victory with PNM’s 22 seats around 10.31 pm, saying, “Tonight, against all odds in a most difficult situation, the PNM has once again gone into Government. It has not been an easy task and easy way but the PNM has stayed the course and we’ve been called to provide the people with good governance … we went into the election with 23 seats and came out with 22.
“Given the obstacles and courses we had to travel, I say this result confirms my faith in the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I always said the people can be trusted to do the right thing when called upon to do. And tonight we did so with these results. I’ll return to the office in Whitehall as the Prime Minister of T&T.”
Rowley called for all in T&T to put aside the campaign’s baggage, spoke about a difficult two years ahead and promised better “weather ahead” and to keep commitments made during the campaign. He added this could easily be his last term in politics.
But shortly after Rowley spoke, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was not conceding. She said the UNC will be filing for recounts in at least three marginal seats as the numbers were “so close.”
“Only when (recounts are concluded) can we concede or claim victory. I’m a bit surprised at the results but it’s not over until the recounts are done. We fought a good fight and did well. We could have done better – but it’s not over til it’s over,’’ Persad-Bissessar told supporters.
Therefore, T&T’s historic “Pandemic Poll” seems set to make more history with the UNC’s recount. That may delay an official result briefly.
Yesterday’s election – T&T’s 18th – was an historic event, occurring amid a second COVID-19 wave.
Despite, the COVID constraints, voter turnout was heavy from amid the 1,134,136-strong electorate. It was perceived to be particularly heavy in some seats, including marginals.
The EBC, which didn’t give turnout estimates last night, will give a preliminary figure later. The turnout in the 2015 General Election was 67.2 per cent
The PNM, which held office for the last five years with 23 seats, had targetted 23 to 25 seats. The UNC aimed to increase its 18 seats of the last term to 25. Neither achieved target.
UNC’s recount call may not be the only such post-election action. The PNM recently took issue with the nomination of UNC’s Princes Town candidate Barry Padarath and signalled an intent to challenge it. Padarath won his seat last night. Persad-Bissessar said yesterday the party is ready for any legal challenge.
UNC leadership in question now
Despite Persad-Bissessar’s recount call, results have now raised the question of her party’s leadership after she’s lost yet another poll. Some UNC insiders said the party won Moruga, showing it picked up ground – but only just. Towards the end of the campaign, former UNC MP Suruj Rambachan had “anointed” Roodal Moonilal to be a future leader and prime minister.
The public’s pronouncement in yesterday’s voting focused on 150 candidates from 19 parties and five independents. The smaller parties did not win any seats.
Candidates had to win one-eighth of the total votes cast to get back their $5,000 deposit.
In the 2015 General Election, with a lesser electorate figure and a turnout of 67.27 per cent, the PNM had won 378,447 of the total 734, 792 votes cast. The UNC had obtained 290, 066 votes, including a Congress of the People seat in St Augustine.
The short – sharp – campaign was highlighted by a high-spend campaign among the two major parties with an emphasis on mass/social media outreach. The 2015 campaign involved spending of over $300 million.