Trinidad PM Claims Election Victory, Defying Anti-Incumbent Wave

Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

Source: AFP via Getty Images

Trinidad and Tobago’s ruling party said it narrowly won in parliamentary elections Monday, snapping a recent anti-incumbent trend that has swept leaders out of power across the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) lost one seat in the 41-seat parliament, but held on to 22, in the official vote tally. It’s chief rival, the United National Congress (UNC), gained two seats for a total of 19.

While some members of the UNC acknowledged the party’s defeat, as of Tuesday, opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had not conceded and local media reported that her party might ask for a recount in some jurisdictions.

Saddled with growing debt, and the longest recession in the Americas after Venezuela, Rowley, told followers that there are “some difficult days ahead”.

Trinidad’s oil and gas wealth have long given the islands’ 1.4 million residents one of the highest standards of living in the Americas. But the economy contracted in seven of the last ten years and and is smaller now than it was in 2008, amid falling natural gas output and worsening levels of competitiveness.

Prime Minister since 2015, Rowley, 70, said this next term could “easily be my last” and that he plans to groom the next generation of PNP leadership.

The PNM draws most of its support from voters of African descent, while the UNC is mainly supported by people whose ancestors came from Asia.

Candidates from more than 17 other parties failed to win any seats. In recent elections in Suriname, Guyana and the Dominican Republic, ruling parties were voted out of power.

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