No Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election has ever been won by a slim margin.
Since the THA was formed in 1980, only the Democratic Action Congress (DAC)/National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and the People’s National Movement (PNM) have governed the island.
Between them, the smallest victories have been 8 seats to 4, coming in 1980 when the DAC won the first THA election, in 2001 when the PNM won for the first time and in 2009, again a PNM win.
In 2009, the new boys on the block were the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) led by Ashworth Jack who had broken away from Hochoy Charles and brought together former DAC/NAR supporters.
All other THA results have been sweeping – 11-1 to the DAC in 1984 and 1988, the same margin to the NAR in 1992, and the PNM got that too in 2005.
There was a 10-1-1 to the NAR in 1996 with an Independent and PNM getting seats but the PNM is the only party to win 12-nil, in 2013.
It means Tobagonians are never often uncertain about who they want to lead them.
A granular look at the districts will show some tough fights over the years but overall results have been clear.
For the first 20 years it was the DAC/NAR and for the next 20, the PNM.
With Scarborough a graveyard of other parties that tried and failed, debate never ceased on the main factors that would make Tobagonians upend a regime.
Notwithstanding the PNM’s declared policies, it was clear that when they broke the DAC/NAR back in 2001, an anti-NAR and anti-UNC vote had also factored.
Tobagonians were no longer comfortable with tensions between Hochoy Charles and the UNC Government. Charles and Prime Minister Basdeo Panday were at war over the interpretation of the authorities under the Fifth Schedule of the THA Act.
When, for example, UNC Works Minister Carlos John moved to pave Milford Road in 2000, Charles had THA trucks block their work, arguing that paving in Tobago was solely the THA’s responsibility. The UNC contended they were the Government for all of Trinidad and Tobago.
The subsequent starving of funds triggered the Dispute Resolution Commission to determine how much Tobago should get from the national budget, and soured relations even more.
Charles too had lost the faith of his people with the loss of millions in the December 1999 Ringbang concert that never brought the gains he promised.
At the same time the UNC’s treatment of Arthur NR Robinson (through which the UNC got into office with a 1995 alliance) and Tobago West MP Pamela Nicholson, was not sitting well with Tobagonians.
So with the UNC entering the THA race in 2001 and with anti-NAR sentiment high, Tobagonians chose the PNM, led by Orville London.
There’s not been a flip of administration since then and those factors aren’t present today.
It means, therefore, that if the Patriotic Democratic Party (PDP), which took two seats from the PNM in 2017, is to turn the tide, it would have to be solely on its proposed policies.
And that, today, is for Tobago to decide upon.
Either way, this will be an historic election – one that could see the PNM becoming the only party to govern beyond 20 years or one in which fresh blood is brought in without any major external factors.
We wait to see what new chapter of history is written on an island that has had a long history of governance, having changed hands 33 times before Independence.
May the best party prevail.