Trinidad & Tobago’s opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) is on a roll and gaining momentum; capturing last week’s St. Joseph by-election in a tight race with Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s ruling United National Congress (UNC).
The victory comes two weeks after the PNM recaptured the corporations the party lost in the recent local government election. In January, the PNM swept the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, winning all 12 seats. Tobago’s Organization of the People (TOP) — one of the partners in the ruling People’s Partnership (PP) coalition failed to secure a single seat in the THA election.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s PP administration suffered its fourth consecutive electoral defeat. The other major coalition partner the Congress of the People (COP) was “wiped out” in the Local Government Elections.
The PNM gained ground from its performance in the local government election in 2010, taking home eight of the 14 Corporations; improving from five, on the three corporations it won in 2010 when the PP won 11 Corporations (UNC 6 and COP 5)
In the St. Joseph by-election, PNM candidate Terrence Deyalsingh polled 6,356 votes, UNC’s Ian Alleyne, a television Crime Watch host gained 5,577; the new Independent Liberal Party (ILP received 1,976 and an Independent candidate Errol Fabien 300.
Deyalsingh’s victory has increased the PNM’s seats in the House of Representatives from 12 won in the May 24, 2010 general elections, to 13, reducing the PP Administration’s seats from 29 to 28.
Jack Warner’s ILP was unable to replicate the success of the Chaguanas West by-election. The party’s candidate, Om Lalla could only muster 1976 votes.
PNM leader Dr. Keith Rowley told hundreds of supporters that the the PP government, “has lost its mandate to operate. This has got to be in the Guinness Book of Records. — four elections in one year. Call the general election as soon as possible, sooner the better,” Persad-Bissessar told her supporters, adding: “While the results may have been very close, we must accept the voice of the people and we accept it.”
The by-election came as a result of the seat of the MP for St. Joseph, Herbert Volney being declared vacant by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Wade Mark in September this year.
Volney had resigned from the UNC and crossed over to the ILP, which caused Persad-Bissessar to ask the Speaker to declare the seat vacant and paving the way for the by-election.
The prime minister fired Volney as Justice Minister in September last year for his role in engineering Cabinet’s approval for, and the President’s Proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) 2011 Act.
The legislation would have paved the way for persons charged with criminal offences and have been awaiting trial for more than 10 years to go free.