In at least four general elections held in the 15-nation Caribbean trade group so far this year, the electorate has chosen to vote out all but one government with the latest being a change in administration in Trinidad and Tobago, easily the region’s largest economy.
On Monday, nearly a million eligible voters picked the main Afro-dominated People’s National Movement (PNM) to run the prosperous island nation off Venezuela for the next five years, dumping Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her multiparty, Hindu-led, People’s Partnership (PP).
The grouping had faced voters with a very comfortable 29 of the 41 parliamentary seats but new Prime Minister Keith Rowley, a volcanologist by profession, will run the country with a 23-18 majority, not the two-thirds that Persad-Bissessar had enjoyed since mid 2010.
Stunned and depressed at the loss, the outgoing prime minister opted to immediately dismiss state security guards and also chose to ride home in the back of a private car without security at her side. She also abandoned plans for a victory rally at her party headquarters, angering supporters and putting herself in a tenuous position to win support to become opposition leader.
Meanwhile, President Anthony Carmona on Wednesday afternoon made it official by swearing in Keith Christopher Rowley, 65, as the twin island’s seventh prime minister at a simple ceremony in Port of Spain.
The loss for the partnership means that voters in the bloc of nations from Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland to Belize in Central America have now dismissed governments in Anguilla, neighboring St. Kitts, Guyana and now Trinidad.
Only Desi Bouterse in Suriname has so far survived a year of voter discontent, after he won a second five-year term in general elections in late May trouncing a multiparty opposition and now being able to run Suriname without some of the key partners in the previous administration.
All eyes therefore now turn to St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean where Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is seeking a third consecutive term in office and is counting on completion of a new airport, large enough to take commercial jet planes to bolster his flagging fortunes in the polls.
As PNM supporters celebrate the departure of a government which had been bogged down by widespread and credible allegation of corruption and nepotism, Prime Minister Rowley got down to naming a cabinet and assuring investors that a healthy climate will be in place during his tenure.
He immediately named retired army chief, Brig. Gen Edmund Dillon, as his security minister and trusted confidant Faris Al Rawi as his attorney general. The remainder of the cabinet and heads of diplomatic missions will be named in the coming days officials said.
“I want to thank all the people who are with me all the way – the Christians, the Muslims the Hindus and everybody else who gave me the gave advice when I entered high school – given the opportunity to take it to behave yourself and make good,” a clearly emotional Rowley said in his inaugural speech. “Thank you, thank you Trinidad and Tobago for your honorable service and we will serve you to the best of our ability. Today I give you the assurance that the team you put in place as the government of Trinidad and Tobago would make every effort to ensure that whatever we have available to us to give us the best opportunity to be the best we can be,” he said.
And in more than a veiled reference to corruption on the oil and gas-rich island, the new head of government urged those with political and other forms of influence to “take a little less at the top and leave a little more at the bottom.”