By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, July 30 2013

JACK WARNER, 70, has been re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West, after provisional results from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) last night projected him as the winner of the bye-election. It was a crushing victory.

Up until press time, Warner provisionally received 12,631 votes while the United National Congress’s (UNC) Khadijah Ameen, 32 – his nearest rival – received less than half that amount or 5,126 votes.

At a victory rally in the constituency Warner last night said, “Ladies and gentlemen, my brothers and sisters, my nephews and nieces, my Chaguanas West family, we are one. We are one.”

Warner continued, “This victory represents democracy being demonstrated where the people articulate their needs. You have shown the power of a vibrant community which knows what is in its best interest. Chaguanas West knows what is in its best interest and tonight Chaguanas West has demonstrated that I am in their best interest. I, Jack Warner, merely reflected the voice of Chaguanas West. Tonight, I say a new era has dawned. I am merely the messenger.”

He said, “I want to say to you my heartfelt thanks and to assure you that the ILP will not be a Johnny-come-lately. We are here to stay.”

Conceding defeat on behalf of the UNC, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, “This is just one battle of many battles. There are many more battles to come, the war is yet to be won.”

Ameen pledged to still work in the constituency and said, “the UNC is our party and we will stand firm.”

The result suggests the racial divide which has characterised Trinidad and Tobago politics for decades has been transgressed. Warner, who has for years attracted high levels of votes in the East Indian-based UNC party, appears to continue to have the support of that East Indian base in the constituency, notwithstanding his departure from the UNC.

There were jubilant scenes at the Invincible Recreation Ground, Charlieville, where Warner’s newly-formed Independent Liberal Party (ILP) celebrated victory.

Overall voter turnout figures were not available up to press time, but there were reports that many elderly members of the constituency turned out to vote. EBC officials also stated there was a higher-than-average turnout at polling stations in Felicity, where Warner has traditionally enjoyed a high level of support.

From as early as 7.30 pm the first known results from a polling division, at Charlieville Presbyterian School, came in showing Warner with a large lead: 187 votes to Ameen’s 48. It was a sign of things to come for the rest of the night.

The result brings to an end a grueling three months of intense campaigning which, for many, has resembled a general election. Going to into yesterday’s race, polls had variously predicted a victory for Warner with some national polls predicting a victory for Ameen.

Other candidates in the race did not muster much support. The People’s National Movement’s Avinash Singh had up to last night managed 422 votes; the Democratic National Assembly’s Dr Kirk Meighoo, 11 votes and the National Coalition for Transformation’s Oliver Norman managed 11 votes. They all, therefore, were last night on track to lose their $5,000 deposits since they did not cross the required level of votes. Singh conceded defeat early in the evening, as the first results began to stream in around 7.30 pm. Warner contested the election under his ILP banner and has described himself as that organisation’s “interim leader”. The ILP now thus becomes a fifth political presence in the 41-seat House of Representatives in which the UNC holds 19 seats, the COP 6, the TOP 2 and the PNM 12. St Joseph MP Herbert Volney is independent of the Whip. Warner is expected to be sworn in at Friday’s ceremonial opening of the Parliament to be held at the International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. Warner is likely to be allocated seat No 43 in the Parliament chamber, sitting next to Volney.

Warner’s victory reportedly marks the first time, in modern, post-Independence history, that a third Trinidad-based party has managed to establish a voice in the Parliament, in the face of the traditional two-party dominance of the PNM and UNC political forces and their progenitors. While there have been third parties in the chamber, these have been Tobago-based parties and coalitions. The COP has never won a seat on its own steam, having contested the 2010 polls as part of a specific coalition arrangement, with UNC political leader Persad-Bissessar at the helm.

In her concession speech, the Prime Minister last night said, “You win some and you lose some. I do not feel we have lost because we remain in the Government. We are still the Government, we still have 26 seats in Parliament: still the majority. We have a golden opportunity from this to learn and to become stronger.” She urged supporters to focus on Local Government elections next and offered her congratulations to Warner.

“I have to thank everyone for this resounding victory here today,” Warner said last night. “My dear friends, it was not easy. Up to this morning, it was not easy. Up to this morning I got the impression that there was a new Prado company in Chaguanas West,” he said referring to an accident earlier yesterday in which the security detail of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan knocked down a constituent.

“I say to you it was not easy but what this has proven tonight the result of this election is the voice of the people. If ever a statement… it means something tonight. The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

He continued, “Like David we came up against the might of Goliath and we won, the might of an entire Government and we won. We shall be grateful for God’s mercies. I never doubted your love….Let us vow to keep our politics clean. Never to go down in the gutter.”

Warner has twice offered the ILP to the Partnership coalition, but Persad-Bissessar rejected this during the campaign trail, while the COP is on record as having aggressively campaigned against Warner due to football-related allegations against him. The COP instead endorsed the UNC candidate, Ameen, in the bye-election race.

The election result come three months after Warner resigned as Minister of National Security on April 22 in the wake of the publication of a damning Concacaf ethics committee report. A day after, Warner quit as UNC chairman and that week also announced that he would quit as the Chaguanas West MP, a move which was made without the sanction of the Cabinet. A bitter election campaign then ensued.

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