PNM wins nail-biter by-election

(Trinidad Express) The People’s National Movement (PNM) staged a roller-coaster ride to victory last night, with its candidate Terrence Deyalsingh defeating the United National Congress’ (UNC) Ian Alleyne by 779 votes on a nail-biting path to become the new Member of Parliament for the constituency of St Joseph.

This victory reduces the UNC party’s numbers in the House (which started with 21 seats)  to 19 seats, and the Partnership’s which started with 29 seats to 27 and conversely increases the PNM’s strength in the House of Representatives from 12 to 13 seats.

While Alleyne got a ‘wetting’, he was not drenched. Preliminary figures indicated that Deyalsingh received 6,356 votes or 45.6 per cent of the votes cast;  Alleyne got 5,577 votes or 39.2 per cent of the votes cast, while the Independent Liberal Party’s (ILP) Om Lalla trailed far behind with 1,976 votes or 13.9 per cent of the votes cast. Independent candidate Errol Fabien received 300 votes.

For the PNM the political wind is in its sail,  having scored its third electoral victory  in four elections this year, and coming three short years after being decisively kicked out of office in May 2010.

Some pundits believe that this serves as a validation of the leadership of Keith Rowley, who has led the party to this year’s three victories, two of which were landslides.  Noting that the government was rejected in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, the Chaguanas by-election, the local government election and now in St Joseph, Rowley in his address to supporters said this would probably make the Guinness Book of Records of a Government being rejected so many times in one year.

He once again urged the Prime Minister to call the general election. As the PNM supporters savoured their victory and expressed their joy at the St Joseph campaign office last night, Rowley said after the Government “misbehaved” and broke the law during this campaign, it was “poetic justice” that it lost after all that was done.

Deyalsingh, noting that the election was a virtual dead-heat between the PNM and UNC, said the party could win in a two-horse race. He thanked God, his wife and family, his political leader and the screening committee, his campaign manager and all the foot soldiers for his victory.

The UNC had appealed to its base to come home. And while this played a significant part in Alleyne’s creditable showing, it is noteworthy that the Partnership, which received over 10,500 votes in St Joseph in 2010, got less than 6,000 in this election.

The UNC has perhaps emerged as the most wounded of all the political parties in this year’s political whirlwind of election into election. After its resounding  victory in May 2010 as head of the People’s Partnership, the UNC has been dealt blow after blow, with Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s leadership being bruised in the process.

Alleyne last night was his usual flamboyant, loquacious self. “I am not a loser…It ain’t over. In ten days I rock a party that was there for 50-something years. If I had a couple more days….Nevertheless I congratulate Mr Deyalsingh…But I coming back and taking that 600 votes.”

Alleyne was ungracious as he dealt with Lalla, however. “Om Lalla should be ashamed of himself. You have betrayed this nation,” Alleyne said, castigating Lalla for “splitting” the votes and making sure that the PNM took St Joseph. “I could walk in Valsayn, you can’t do that again,” Alleyne said, as he continued to upbraid Lalla.

Alleyne said while his “vacation” from television was good, on his return to that media he had this warning for Deyalsingh: “I coming to hot up yuh head.”

Alleyne, who said the Prime Minister was the best Prime Minister and the People’s Partnership the best party, said together “we going to mash dem up” in 2015. “Come the next election, it go be wetting after wetting,” he promised.

Hamid Ghany, deputy managing director of Guardian Media, when asked by panellist Sunity Maharaj, if Alleyne would be returning to CNC3, said “It is a policy decision” and it has to be discussed.

The Prime Minister, who spoke after a long list of speakers, who included Ministers Ganga Singh, Roodal Moonilal, Marlene Coudray and candidate Alleyne, was unusually brief. She congratulated Deyalsingh, but stressed that he was just there until the next election. “We live to fight another day. We continue in office and remain committed and dedicated to serving all citizens,” she said.

The ILP, which has moved from the high point  in the Chaguanas by-election, in which it gave every indication of being the party to watch, has  underperformed in the two subsequent electoral outings­—local government election and the St Joseph by-election.

But speaking to his supporters last night, ILP Jack Warner, was buoyed by  the UNC defeat. “I commend Terrence Deyalsingh. I am sorry that Om is not sitting next to me in Parliament. But I am consoled by the fact that it could have been worse. So God is a good God,” he said.

Warner also noted that the voter turnout—52.98 per cent—was the lowest since 1956.  He said both the UNC (which got 10,500 votes in 2010) and the PNM which received approximately 7,700 votes in 2010, saw a reduction in support. The ILP, which is only four months old, has done “exceptionally well” and will continue to build on its strength and “will fight election after election until our day comes,” he said.

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