PORT OF SPAIN –– People’s National Movement seven, United National Congress six—and both tied for the Sangre Grande Corporation.
It was a narrow victory for the ruling PNM in Monday’s Local Government Election.
The PNM finished ahead of the Opposition UNC by only one corporation, losing several seats to the UNC, with both tied in Sangre Grande.
However, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told reporters around 10:20 p.m. Monday night, “We’re very pleased with results . . . it was a handsome victory for which we’re grateful.”
It was PNM chairman Franklin Khan rather than Rowley, however, who had spoken first, declaring victory for the PNM.
Khan said the PNM held on to seven of its former corporations and had tied for Sangre Grande. He said the PNM won 83 of the 137 electoral seats in the 14 corporations, and UNC won 54.
While stating the PNM picked up two new seats — Carapo and Les Efforts West, San Fernando — Khan conceded the PNM had lost “one seat” and that the UNC had picked up new seats in several areas.
An elated Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, speaking around 10:55 p.m., claimed the outcome as victory.
She told celebrating supporters at UNC’s Couva headquarters the party had taken “12 PNM” seats. Monday night’s results narrowed the 8-6 gap between the PNM and the UNC’s results in the 2013 elections.
The PNM and UNC will now have to draw straws to determine who will control the Sangre Grande Corporation, Rowley said.
The poll was marked by a very low voter turnout estimated at approximately 17 per cent Monday night. If confirmed, this would be a significant drop compared to the 2013 election, when the PNM’s victory broke voter turnout records with a 43.2 per cent turnout.
The ruling PNM maintained its majority hold on corporations in Arima, Diego Martin, Point Fortin, San Fernando, Port of Spain, San Juan/Laventille and Tunapuna/Piarco.
PNM also won the Les Efforts West for the first time in 24 years, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said. But the PNM lost ground to the UNC in San Juan/Laventille and Tunapuna/Piarco.
The UNC held on to its corporations of Chaguanas, Siparia, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo, Penal/Debe, Mayaro/Rio Claro and Princes Town.
Apart from defending Chaguanas and Siparia, which the PNM had strongly targeted, the UNC also won a second seat in San Juan East (where it already held one) and another in Tunapuna/Piarco.
PNMites at Balisier House had listened seriously as results began coming in. But after victory was declared, music was turned up.
At UNC headquarters, however, a celebratory mood was in effect since around 8:30 p.m. when the UNC began declaring victory in strongholds.
The PNM-UNC battle left no room for the five other parties and four Independents who contested in various areas and all lost.
The Congress of the People’s nine candidates failed in Tunapuna/Piarco, San Juan/Laventille, Siparia and San Fernando. The Independent Liberal Party’s seven candidates in Chaguanas all lost.
The new National Solidarity Assembly’s nine candidates lost in Sangre Grande, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo, Princes Town and Mayaro/Rio Claro.
The Movement for Social Justice lost in the 11 seats in Arima, Point Fortin and Tunapuna.
The National Democratic’s three Port of Spain candidates failed, as did the four Independents who contested.
Monday’s narrow PNM victory and UNC’s inroads in several areas now raises questions about the 14-month old Rowley PNM Government.
Preliminary estimates up to 11 pm showed 113,910 votes for the PNM and 116,391 for the UNC.
The electorate for Monday’s exercise in the 136 seats (minus Mon Repos/Navet where the PNM’s candidate was unopposed) was 1,054,819.
Political parties had all remarked on the low voter turnout.
Officials noted that voter turnouts have averaged approximately 40 per cent over 1992 to 2013. Turnouts have gone from 37 per cent in 1992 to a record high of 43.2 per cent in 2013.
Among election issues, EBC CEO Ramesh Nanan yesterday apologised for the shifting of polling stations in Esperanza and Dow Village, which was done yesterday morning due to an administrative error.
Apart from drawing straws for the Sangre Grande Corporation on the basis of last night’s results, the EBC will work out the allocation of approximately 56 aldermen for the respective 14 corporations.
This involves amended Local Government law concerning the mathematical formula for the proportional representation system which was passed in the last People’s Partnership’s term. (T&T Guardian)