PNM gains ground in local government by-election

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PNM candidate for the Lengua/Indian Walk district Autly Granthume, centre, is welcomed by party supporters and Local Govt Minister Faris Al-Rawi, left, and Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, who is standing between Al-Rawi and Granthume. – Photo by Yvonne Webb

THE PNM overall gained political ground across both seats in Monday’s local government by-elections, in the Lengua/Indian Walk seat on the Princes Town Regional Corporation and the Quinam/Morne Diablo seat on the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation. While each party won one seat, the results both showed a general shift in the PNM’s favour, in contrast to the surge enjoyed overall in last year’s local government elections, where the UNC handsomely won the popular vote.

On Monday, the PNM flipped the Lengua/Indian Walk seat (with a 600-vote margin), previously held by the UNC (with a 300-vote margin.)

The PNM won with 1,986 votes to the UNC’s 1,394 votes, compared to 2019 when the UNC won with 1,871 votes to the PNM’s 1,577.

The PNM tally rose by 400 votes and UNC’s fell by 500 votes.

Also on Monday, the PNM halved the UNC’s majority in the Quinam/Morne Diablo seat from a 2,400 vote margin in 2019 to a 1,200 margin.

The UNC won with 2,239 votes ahead of the PNM’s 976 votes. However, this result represented a PNM gain of 400 votes and a UNC loss of 800 votes compared to the previous election results of UNC getting 3,044 votes to the PNM’s 599 votes.

For the PNM, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, in a tweet, said, “In both seats, the UNC was unable to increase its votes. The naysayers got it wrong.”

Newsday asked Lengua/Indian Walk councillor-elect Pastor Autley Granthume why he had won and whether his victory would translate into help for the PNM in next year’s general elections.

He told Newsday residents were tired of “blind promises and nothing happening” amid a lack of sport facilities and jobs for youngsters but they knew him as someone helping anyone he could.

Regarding the 2025 elections, he viewed his win as “a stepping stone for the PNM going forward.”

Newsday asked if he believes his win could help the PNM snatch the key marginal Moruga constituency next year, now held by the UNC’s Michele Benjamin.

Granthume said, “We worked with that in mind. We presented the facts to the people. People gravitated and showed their satisfaction. We believe once we continue to work and meet the people’s needs, we believe news spreads across the floor very quickly.

“This will be an incentive as we go forward into the election in 2025.”

Granthume said the victory reflected well on his party.

“The PNM has done well but sometimes we have some little hiccups. (Previously) the PNM did not reach out in some areas we should have and may have caused some people to slide off.”

He said his win was now “a very good reflection on the PNM.”

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal partially blamed the results on Mayaro MP Rushton Paray. Two days before the by-election, Paray led a slate to contest the UNC internal elections against a slate backed by political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“Whatever slim loss we had was due to the ‘Paray effect.’”

Accusing Paray of creating “diversion, division and kuchoor” in the UNC, Moonilal said, “That is the effect of it.”

Paray, in reply via WhatsApp, told Newsday that Moonilal’s criticism was “desperate and laughable.”

He said the internal election date was set by the national executive, which included Moonilal.

“They unilaterally decided to set the date two days before the by-election, and this decision was made after the Government had already announced the by-election date,” Paray said.

“The internal election could have been scheduled for the end of June, but they chose not to pursue that option.”

Saying the UNC internal election was over, he said a team had been selected.

“It is time to stop making excuses and start working.”

“Blaming others for the poor decision-making or strategies of the executive will not enhance the UNC’s prospects for the General Election in 2025.”