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Roaring victory for Rowley

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Keith Rowley comprehensively won the PNM internal elections, receiving 18,070 votes while his challenger Pennelope  Beckles-Robinson got 1,314. Beckles-Robinson received therefore less than 7 per cent of the vote, with Rowley obtaining 93 per cent.

And this margin of victory was replicated throughout, as the   Rowley slate made a clean sweep. 

Rowley said yesterday he received a text from Beckles-Robinson on the night of the election, congratulating him on his victory. He said he texted back, thanking her for her involvement in the process.

With the exception of Arima, Rowley beat Beckles-Robinson in every constituency. 

In Arima, she won by a slim majority of 325 votes against Rowley’s 314, a difference of 11. 

Apart from her hometown constituency Beckles-Robinson received double and sometimes single digit figures. In Tobago East for example, she received nine votes and in Tobago West, 10.  Rowley received over 1,000 votes in both Tobago constituencies, which had the highest voter turnout. 

In San Fernando East, where it was thought Beckles-Robinson might garner support, Rowley received 558 votes against 81.

Addressing party supporters at Balisier House on Sunday night, Rowley said he wanted to tell all those who were unsuccessful that they should feel no shame for having offered to serve. 

“You may not be successful on this occasion, but maybe sometime in the future. But what you have indicated is your willingness to participate in the process,” he said. 

Rowley lost in 1996 and triumphed the second time around.

He said he was sure all those who voted had a sense of satisfaction that “today they were part of a stream that would soon flow into a  river”, referencing a speech made by former president, the late Arthur NR Robinson. 

Rowley also told those who supported his  team to keep their T-shirts “ as souvenirs” because from now on it would be Team PNM. He said the good thing about the PNM is its ability to take part in a process like this and to move on the next day “to what is required”.

“A lot of things are now behind us. The issue of who should lead the PNM is no longer in question. Because today you the members have resoundingly elected me as your political leader. It is no longer about who is waiting in the wings to launch a challenge. It is no longer about who could raise more money ... or who has a good record. That is now behind us. We can focus with laser-light accuracy on the assignment ahead and that is to win the general election,” he said. 

“We are no longer concerned about who is in  this camp and who is in that camp. There is one camp and that is camp PNM. And I want to say to all those who were concerned that these elections were going to be a divisive event in the PNM, look at what has happened today. Understand that we are stronger for it. I have been in this party for over three decades, I have never seen the PNM as mobilised as it is now, outside of a election.  I have never seen this party organised as it is now, within months of a general election,” he added.

He recalled that the party’s delegates voted to end the delegate system in December 2012. He said on that day, he announced he would make himself available to the party for  before the next general election, cutting short his term and that of all members of the executive by one year.

On the one man/one vote system, Rowley said:  “We would be the first to accept that the system is not perfect”. But he said there were persons who were never part of the process before turning up at polling stations to vote. 

“The process of democratic voting in the party was outstanding,” he said. He added that everybody knew many delegates were doing what they wanted when they went to vote (as opposed to voting in accordance with the instructions of the party group they represented). And he noted the party had moved the process from a few hundred persons to thousands of persons having the right to freely choose who should lead them. 

He again thanked all those in the party who worked on the process. He congratulated all those who offered themselves for office. 

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