It means the PNM, which won Trinidad and Tobago’s general elections nine times, will form the country’s next government. Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared last night that the next Prime Minister will be sworn in tomorrow. The UNC, headed by Basdeo Panday, could only capture 15 seats and will form the Opposition when Parliament reconvenes.
For the COP, which had high hopes coming into the election and contested for the first time, it was a complete washout with not a single seat to show for its spirited campaign.
COP leader Winston Dookeran lost his St Augustine seat, which he won under the UNC banner in 2002, giving up his ghost to Alliance candidate Vasant Bharath.
Dookeran took an early lead in the polls but fizzled as voting numbers came in.
The PNM sealed victory by picking up the marginal seats of Barataria/San Juan, St Joseph, Tunapuna, Pointe-a-Pierre and Chaguanas East.
At Balisier House, the party was celebrating victory as early as 11 pm. “This is God’s victory and we give Him thanks and praise for it,” Manning told cheering supporters at his San Fernando East constituency office at about 11.20 pm, where he declared victory.
“You have elected me to serve you for a tenth consecutive term. San Fernando East is making history by this decision you have made tonight,” he said.
Before leaving for Balisier House, he told his supporters: “The next five years will be better than the last five.” He also urged supporters to “put aside all animosities” and appealed to them, “not to mar our tremendous victory in this election. Keep it clean, keep it pure.”
“We are all citizens of TT, we must dwell together in harmony,” he stressed. “It has been hard fought, it has been hard won.”
“At the end of the day, we were able to get the prize.”
UNC leader Panday conceded defeat at about 10 pm. “The people have spoken,” he told supporters. He insisted the UNC A’s defeat was “a well-orchestrated plot” devised by the COP and PNM.
“We will accept these results until they are confirmed by the EBC,” he said, adding: “The PNM has won. The people of this country have lost.”
“If the COP had not divided the vote, the PNM would not be the government today, the UNC would be in government,” he said. He urged supporters to “go home in peace.”
And shortly before midnight, COP leader Winston Dookeran also conceded defeat. In an address at COP headquarters in Chaguanas, he told supporters: “We fought a good fight. We must be proud that we made a noble effort to offer our country a change. At the end of this part of our journey, we remain with our political and personal integrity intact.
“Clearly, from the disappointing results we have seen, the country is not ready for the change which we offered. We still believe our change will one day become a reality for our people.
“Let us look at this as an effort made by thousands of citizens to break the politics of the past and give us a new future,” he told supporters. Dookeran ended by congratulating the PNM and UNC A for their victories at the poll.
SPLIT continues on Page 14AOther COP candidates who contested the election also came up empty-handed. Gillian Lucky lost her seat in St Joseph; Manohar Ramsaran lost in Chaguanas West and Ganga Singh, in Caroni East.
The result seemed to validate findings conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) which predicted a PNM victory with 25-26 seats, the UNC Alliance 15-16 seats and COP getting no seats. NACTA predicted the COP posed no threat to the UNC Alliance in UNC heartland.
Even as the PNM savoured victory in the marginal seats, including Barataria/San Juan, Pointe-a-Pierre and Chaguanas East with Joseph Ross and Christine Kangaloo and Mustapha Abdul-Hamid taking the PNM across the victory line, respectively, the party also found favour with voters in its stronghold constituencies — San Fernando West, Diego Martin West, Laventille East/Morvant and San Fernando East. It was clear the PNM victory stride was lengthened with the split voting caused by the COP which spoiled the UNC A’s chances of gaining more seats. In some cases, it was clear if the UNC and COP votes were combined, it would have overtaken the PNM. For the UNC, voters affirmed their support in the party’s traditional seats like Couva South (Kelvin Ramnath), Caroni East (Tim Gopeesingh), Caroni Central (Hamza Rafeeq), Mayaro (Winston “Gypsy” Peters) and Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Siparia).
UNC newcomer Jack Warner who is the UNC A’s chairman will take his seat in Parliament with Chaguanas West under his belt. Panday’s daughter Mickela walked away with the Oropouche West seat. In a bitter fight for Tabaquite seat, UNC Alliance Ramesh Maharaj trounced Anand Ramlogan, putting Maharaj who helped topple the last UNC administration, back into Parliament.