PNM candidate for La Horquetta Talparo Foster Cummings after casting his vote yesterday

Stories by

Gail Alexander

The People’s National Movement will participate in any recount the United National Congress wants in any seat – but it won’t change the General Election results, says PNM general secretary Foster Cummings.

And the PNM’s Moruga unit is investigating whether a lapse in election day machinery caused the party to lose that seat, says Moruga constituency chairman David Trim

Both spoke yesterday when asked by the T&T Guardian about Monday’s election results and the UNC call for a recount in five seats.

The PNM won 22 of the 41 seats at stake to the UNC’s 19. The party lost Moruga to the UNC, reducing its original holding of 23 seats to 22, raising concerns about how it will govern in the new term.

Despite its five-seat lead in the 2015-2020 term, the PNM had difficulty passing some special majority legislation in Parliament due to lack of UNC support.

Yesterday, Cummings noted that he had won the La Horquetta seat with 9,392 votes to UNC candidate Jearlean John’s 7,294.

“Does the 2,098 gap between the figures seem like a ‘close’ figure to you?” Cummings asked.

He felt the UNC’s giveaways to the electorate in the build-up to the election didn’t have an impact, “At least not in La Horquetta because if it did, they would have won.”

“We won the elections, we’re comfortable with the results and we’ll continue to do the work we’ve been delivering to the country as we’re convinced we did an excellent job in the last five years.”

On why the PNM lost Moruga after so many resources were pumped into the constituency – including agro-processing and other projects – Cummings said, “We may have lost Moruga but we won the government. We went into the election to return the party to government and we succeeded in doing that.”

On whether the reduced three-seat majority would stymie the PNM’s development plans, PNM general secretary Cummings said, “We didn’t have a special majority level in the last term and we did very well, so we press on.”

Asked what reduced winning vote levels in some of the party’s “safe seats,” Cummings added, “We’ve won the election, right now we’re celebrating and we’re focused on going forward. This is a first-past-the-post system and who gets the majority of seats wins the government. With that system, the popular vote doesn’t put you into government.

Cummings referred other queries to PNM chairman Colm Imbert on a possible challenge to UNC Princes Town candidate Barry Padarath’s nomination. The party claims Padarath signed the wrong candidate form and recently hinted at legal challenge to this.

He declined comment on PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley’s hint this may easily be his last term.

“I was in la Horquetta and didn’t get his full speech,” Cummings said.

PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan didn’t answer calls nor did Moruga co-ordinator Andre Monteil or candidate Winston “Gypsy” Peters. Other PNM officials attributed the situation to an “anti-government sentiment” in the constituency and a no-show by certain Barrackpore sectors where PNM had completed a cemetery project.

Constituency chairman Trim said he couldn’t give an official reason yet since a post-mortem is being done on the outcome.

“We’re not certain. We’re investigating whether a lapse in election day machinery in some areas contributed to the loss. The UNC’s giveaways in the areas, that may have impacted at some point, but it’s too early to tell exactly what it was,” Trim said.

Trim said his unit was awaiting the official EBC result on that seat since he said when the team last checked on Monday night – before the last box arrived – there was a 700-vote gap between Peters’ votes and UNC candidate Michelle Benjamin’s.

“If the margin is 300 votes or so, we might determine if we may need a recount – that might be a possibility, we don’t know. If not we’ll regroup and work towards (2022) Local Government polls.’’