Photo: Radhica De Silva. PNM members celebrate victory.

The first-term incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM), led by incumbent Prime Minister Keith Rowley, won 22 seats to form a second five-year term majority government by defeating the opposition United National Congress, led by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The UNC finished with 19 seats on the night.

It was the first parliamentary election where a major Tobagonian party, The Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement, and two of the three largest parties elected in 2015, the United National Congress (UNC) and the Congress of the People (COP), were led by women.

Voters elected the 41 members to the House of Representatives by first-past-the-post voting.

The main opponent to the People’s National Movement government was the United National Congress, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Congress of the People was the sole other party in Parliament, represented by a single MP, whose seat was lost to the UNC in last night’s election.

Rowley’s party had been heavily criticized by the opposition UNC party due to  concern over the coronavirus, migration and recession in the energy-rich Caribbean country.

Moreover, the opposition UNC has criticized Rowley’s government for requiring nationals who did not return to the country before the border closure to obtain exemptions to travel home.

The party also accused the government of not protecting borders and allowing thousands of Venezuelans fleeing th economic collapse of their own country to enter illegally.

Trinidad and Tobago’s own economy has performed poorly of late, contracting seven out of the last 10 years largely due to lower oil and gas prices.

A relieved-looking Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in his victory speech at Balisier House last night: “It has not been an easy task. It has not been, was not an easy win but the PNM stayed the course and once again has been called to provide the people of Trinidad and Tobago with good governance that it expects from the People’s National Movement.”

“In a difficult situation PNM has been once again called to service for Trinidad and Tobago.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this can easily be my last term in politics in Trinidad and Tobago. I am not one of those politicians who believe that when you come into office, you should go out feet first. I have places to go and people to see,” the Prime Minister stated, hugging his wife Sharon.

But shortly after Rowley spoke, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was not conceding yet. She said the UNC will be filing for recounts in at least three marginal seats as the numbers were “so close.”

At the time of this report it is not clear exactly how many votes formed the margin of victory in the three disputed seats.

It’s now over to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to undertake the recount.