Manning Get’s Another Trini Mandate

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[International News]

Trinidad and Tobago yesterday voted to "step up" with Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the People's National Movement.
In one of the most keenly contested election races in recent years, the people bought into the party's plan to continue its goal of taking the country to developed status by 2020 with a second straight term in office, giving the PNM 26 of the 41 seats.

The United National Congress Alliance meanwhile took 15 seats, with UNC-A co-leaders Basdeo Panday (Couva North) and Jack Warner (Chaguanas West) securing their seats, while the new party to the race, Congress of the People, failed to win a single seat .

From a record 993,052 people registered to cast their ballots, more than 550,000 turned out yesterday. This was significantly lower than the last poll, when the PNM won 20 seats to the UNC's 16, out of 36 seats, in which some 70 per cent (605,938) of the electorate turned out.

Most of the electorate voted in the PNM's favor again yesterday, giving the 51-year-old party a ninth win in the history of general elections, which started in 1956.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters firstly at his San Fernando East constituency office, moments after most of the results were confirmed last night, the 61-year-old Manning first poked fun at the opponents he had "flogged" on his way to retaining the seat.

"The voice of the people is the voice of the almighty God. This is God's victory and we give him thanks and praise for it," Manning told what he said was one of the biggest crowds he had ever seen in his constituency. He then thanked the thousands of party faithful all over the country who had stood behind his party.

Later, he was showered with hugs and kisses as he arrived at Balisier House in Port of Spain to celebrate with supporters.

UNC-A co-leaders Basdeo Panday and Jack Warner and COP political leader Winston Dookeran were not as humble in defeat.

Panday suggested to his supporters that the COP has colluded with the PNM to keep them out of office during his speech at the Rienzi Complex in Couva.

The 74-year-old politician had hinted to his supporters, during the party's final rally on Saturday at Aranjuez, that this would have been his final election fight.

Last night, however, he again said the people would have to decide on his future. Having been touted by more than one poll as being the man most people wanted to see as the next prime minister, Dookeran lost his seat which went to the UNC-A's Vasant Bharath .

With five years of hard work ahead to make his party a bigger force next time around, Dookeran could not help but express his frustration as he still thanked his supporters at the party's Gaston Court, Chaguanas headquarters.

The thousands of voters who turned out yesterday picked, for the first time in the history of elections in this country, 41 members of parliament, the EBC having increased the seats from 36 in the last poll.

And the five new seats which were created out of that new arrangement, as well as the entry of the COP in this race, proved critical in yesterday's outcome. While not managing to earn more than one seat, COP managed to pull significant enough numbers of UNC core voters to make a difference for the PNM.
Several of these key seats for the PNM included San Juan/Barataria, which was won by Joseph T Ross, St Joseph (Kennedy Swaratsingh), San Fernando West (Junia Regrello), Toco/Sangre Grande (Indra Sinanan Ojah-Maharaj) and Pointe-a-Pierre (Christine Kangaloo).

Otherwise, yesterday's general election passed off without too many hitches, save a few hiccups here and there.

The pre-election violence, which had sparked concern from Police Commissioner Trevor Paul going into yesterday's voting, did not happen.


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