All indications pointed to “Rowley by a landslide” last night in the contest for the post of political leader in yesterday’s internal elections of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
At about 10 p.m., a victorious Keith Rowley entered Balisier House, Port of Spain, to a resounding welcome from supporters.
Wearing a red PNM jersey and white sailor cap, Rowley, when asked what was the significance of the cap, stated: “It means I’m the captain of this ship.”
The crowd roared its approval.
“He’s captain of the ship and he steer it well,” one woman shouted escatically.
Some of the results received by press time were: Chaguanas East—334 for Rowley, 11 for his opponent Pennelope Beckles-Robinson; St Joseph—554 for Rowley, 19 for Beckles; Moruga/Tableland—426 Rowley, 14 Beckles; Diego Martin West—803 for Rowley, 24 Beckles; Lopinot/Bon Air West—456 for Rowley, 19 for Beckles: Princes Town—255 for Rowley, 21 for Beckles; Barataria/San Juan--336 for Rowley, 53 for Beckles; Chaguanas West—109 for Rowley, 2 for Beckles; Tunapuna—567 for Rowley, 16 for Beckles; St Augustine—249 for Rowley, 12 for Beckles; Rio Claro/Mayaro—551 for Rowley, 90 for Beckles; Caroni East—119 for Rowley, 8 for Beckles; Oropouche East—209 for Rowley, 22 for Beckles; Diego Martin North East—408 for Rowley, 8 for Beckles; Diego Martin Central—592 for Rowley, 26 for Beckles; Port of Spain South—382 for Rowley, 25 for Beckles; Special voters—139 for Rowley, 1 for Beckles.
All indications suggested that Beckles-Robinson was unable to arouse the PNM electorate and was heading for a humiliating defeat.
Rowley in a preliminary comment said: “The preliminary results are quite satisfying. It appears as though we are going in the right direction.”
He said he was pleased with the way the process had gone.
“The enthusiasm from the party members was sustained throughout the day.”
Asked about the healing process, Rowley said: “Healing is only required where there are wounds and sores. The PNM does not carry wounds or sores. We walk with a spring in our step and we look forward to the days ahead when we engage the general election issues.”
Asked if he would be working with Beckles-Robinson, Rowley replied: “I’ll be working with every member in the PNM. When all the results come in, I expect to be the leader of the party. We don’t have two categories of members, we have one category—a member of the People’s National Movement.”
He said while there were “one or two hiccups” in the voting process, it should be remembered that this was the first time the party was doing this, going from a delegate system of some 800 voters to a one-man/one vote system of potentially 81,000 voters.
Rowley said the party “has been very energised” by the internal elections.
“We set ourselves a target of reflecting on our past and resurging at the appropriate time and there has been a resurgence... It gives the lie to the statement that people are not interested in the political process.”
He said the party elections had the look and feel of a general election, with a political party operating with volunteer assistance to conduct an exercise which was “quite a logistical experience”.
He congratulated all the candidates, saying that to offer oneself as a candidate is to take responsibility. He added that the creation of competition (for positions in the party) “brought forward the energy” within the party.
“We had four months of campaigning and I think the party is a lot stronger than when we started out,” Rowley stated.
This was the third leadership contest that the PNM had in its 58-year history.
On February 8, 1987, Patrick Manning won the post of (interim) political leader with 572 votes (83 per cent) against Aeneas Wills, who got 127 votes (17 per cent) under the delegate system. That contest followed the party’s devastating 33-3 defeat in the 1986 general election.
On October 13, 1996, Manning won against Rowley, with 438 votes (60 per cent) against Rowley, who received 279 votes (40 per cent).
This followed the early snap poll of 1995 which led to the party’s loss of office.
PNM internal elections officials started the count for the position of political leader first, before counting the ballots for the other positions, hence the reason only the political leader figures were available last night.
Voter turnout was between 20 and 30 per cent.