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LOW VOTE

News day / At 9.45 pm, the results showed the PNM retained control of the Port-of-Spain City, San Fernando City, San Juan/ Laventille Regional, Pt Fortin Borough, Diego Martin Regional and Tunapuna/Piarco Regional corporations.

The UNC retained Penal/Debe, Princes Town, Couva/Tabaquite/ Talparo, Chaguanas Borough, Siparia and Rio Claro/Mayaro Regional corporations. The Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, which the PNM won in the 2013 Local Government Elections, ended in a tie with the PNM and UNC each winning four districts.

Speaking with reporters in Sangre Grande as the results came in, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said, “Clearly, we got the popular vote. We fought a good fight and that is the result.” “What is significant is that the PNM made a significant amount of ground in the UNC controlled seats.” He added that the numbers in the Vega de Oropouche and Cumuto/ Tamana showed the PNM lost by slim margins to the UNC.

In 2013, the PNM won eight of the 14 local government corporations in Trinidad, including the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.

This result came against the backdrop of one of the lowest voter turnouts in the history of local government elections in Trinidad.

Preliminary reports suggest that overall, approximately only 200,000 out of a total of 1,036,731 eligible voters cast their votes in yesterday’s election.

Speaking at the party’s Balisier House in Port-of-Spain last night, Prime Minister and PNM political leader Dr Keith Rowley expressed satisfaction with the outcome. “We in the PNM are very, very pleased with the results. We entered this campaign at a particularly difficult time for TT. From the moment, we got into Government we were governing in very straightened circumstances,” he said. “To have gone into a local government election promptly and to have held our position as well as we have done. I am particularly pleased,” Rowley said.

The Prime Minister said the PNM held all its seats in Diego Martin, Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Arima and Point Fortin.

He noted despite the tie in Sangre Grande, the PNM did very well in seats it would have lost by 1,000 votes, losing only by hundreds of votes, on this occasion. Rowley was unfazed by the low voter turnout and did not see it as an indictment against his Government. “For those who came out to vote, they chose the PNM resoundingly. We won 83 of the 137 seats and the UNC won 54. So I will call that a handsome victory for which we are very grateful,” he declared.

Replying to reporters questions on the low voter turnout, the Prime Minister said, “Tonight. We are concerned about those who came out to vote. I think they were turned on. That’s why they came out to vote. I have not heard about anybody being prevented from going to the polls. Wide open choices and those who came to the polls supported the PNM’s position.” Noting the comments made earlier in the evening by various analysts about the outcome of the elections, Rowley, “We campaigned very strongly on local government reform. We are quite happy that those who came out to vote, chose the PNM.” Rowley promised the local government reform programme will be accelerated.

PNM chairman Franklin Khan agreed with Rowley that the party performed well in the elections, gaining ground in several UNC controlled areas and gaining some new seats. “I don’t know where this hullabaloo came from the UNC that they won the elections. The UNC did not win the elections.

The PNM has resoundingly won the local government elections.” Khan noted that with a two party (PNM-UNC) fight in the elections, “we have done equally well and some cases, better.” Khan stated, “I think we have gained more ground, politically and numerically in the election results than the UNC has ever done in this election.” On the future of Sangre Grande, Rowley said this may involve a process of drawing straws to determine who controls the corporation. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi supported Rowley’s view that the PNM won the popular vote in Sangre Grande. Al-Rawi explained that based on this and the proportional representation system of electing aldermen to corporations, Al-Rawi said the PNM will get three aldermen in that corporation while the UNC will get one.

Speaking to supporters at the UNC’s headquarters in Couva in Penal last night, Opposition Leader and UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared the results, “ a victory for the people” as she pledged to closely monitor government’s performance and expose them, “when necessary.” “We asked the people to send a message to the government that there is so much pain and suffering, that the time for change had come. And so it is, the people have sent that message to the Rowley government and we trust they have received the message and take the necessary steps to ease the pain and suffering of the ordinary people,” she said. Persad-Bissessar pledged to continue to monitor the performance of the government, “And I pledge as God is my witness, I pledge we will hold the Rowley government to account.”

(Additional reporting by Corey Connelly and Richardson Dhalai)

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