SCARBOROUGH: The main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) has won a landslide victory in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). As of press time, the party has won all 12 seats.
Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who along with senior members of her coalition People’s Partnership government had campaigned heavily in support of the Tobago Organization of the People (TOP), one of the four partners of the coalition, conceded defeat.
“The people have spoken. This has been a tough political battle and the choice for Tobago between change and a perpetuation of an administration which has been in place for 12 years.
“Tobagonians, in an overwhelming majority, chose to stay with the Orville London-led THA. And as I have always said, the voice of the people, is the voice of God,” said Persad-Bissessar in a statement.
London said he felt humbled by the victory “because of the tremendous trust the people of Tobago have placed in me and my team”.
PNM leader, Dr. Keith Rowley, was elated.
“It is no easy or mean feat to go for a fourth term…and to end up winning with a clean sweep must say something,” he said.
Political analyst, Derek Ramsamooj, said the TOP could become “politically irrelevant to the People’s Partnership government”.
Ramsamooj said that if a general election was held (soon) “the TOP would not be seen as being relevant to the government”.
TOP leader, Ashworth Jack, the outgoing Minority Leader in the THA, was defeated, polling 645 votes to 1,259 for Sheldon Cunningham.
Political observers had regarded the poll as a referendum on the coalition partnership that came to power in May 2010, and has had “several missteps” over the past two and half years in power.
Political commentator, Dr. Vanus James, said the results had weakened the coalition government and that “this election has taken Jack out of the picture”.
“He could not win his own or even two or more seats based on his strength,” said Dr. James.
The PNM had enjoyed an 8-4 majority in the outgoing THA and opinion polls published last weekend suggested that the party would retain its 12-year hold of the legislative body.
Both the PNM and the Tobago Platform of the People (TPT), headed by former THA Chief Secretary, Hochoy Charles, have accused the coalition government of seeking to influence the outcome of the election by introducing legislation to grant further autonomy to Tobago. Charles polled a mere 16 votes and all of the TPT candidates lost their deposits.
In her statement, Persad-Bissessar urged supporters to be resilient.
“There is much to be learned from this and from which strong character can emerge,” she said. “It is a time for introspection and resolve. A time to gather valuable insights that will serve us well in the months and years ahead.”
The coalition government will face another test in May when Local Government elections are held in Trinidad.