The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), a party birthed by its political leader Watson Duke in 2015, resoundingly won the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election on Monday. Duke, whose political influence started in 2014 as he held one-man meetings with a bullhorn under a dim streetlight, left Tobago – and the People's National Movement – in a blackout.
The PDP, which won two seats in the 2017 THA election, and then six seats on January 25, ended the six-six deadlock in the THA by snatching at least 12 seats to take control of the new 15-seat assembly.
Exuberant supporters in black and green jerseys in Roxborough, the party's base, could not contain themselves on election night. Beating drums, blowing whistles, waving flags and singing, "Let Tracy go home," the PDP in six years flipped the script and made the PNM the minority in the THA.
A battalion of riot police had to be stationed in Roxborough to ensure celebrations did not overly flout covid19 protocols.
Although the PDP accused the EBC of bias in its creation of three new electoral districts to end the stalemate, a high turnout of voters on Monday gave the PDP an undisputed mandate.
Although building the party on his strength and even controversially taking his Public Services Association (PSA) pension after resigning as president – then not resigning – to support the PDP's election campaign earlier this year, Duke's masterstroke was passing the torch – some might say the bullifay – to his deputy leader Farley Augustine.
The charismatic electoral representative for Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside, who won his seat for the third straight time, was the yin to Duke's yang. Publicly calling out Duke whenever he crossed the line and even promising to hold him to account, Augustine became the Chief Secretary the people wanted – more reserved than Duke, but similarly passionate about improving the lives of Tobagonians, and ensuring accountability and transparency within the THA.
The result? A complete decimation of the PNM at the polls to end 20 years of governance that started under Orville London.
The PDP, campaigning heavily about a failed zipline project in the January 25 election, roped in the PNM to tie the election.
A local saying is that all rope has an end, and Monday was the PNM's.
PNM Tobago Council leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine, who defeated Kelvin Charles as PNM Tobago Council leader in 2020, lost her Patience Hill/Signal Hill seat. Her post as PNM leader will now be under scrutiny after inheriting a ten-two majority in the assembly from Charles.
Former chief secretary Ancil Dennis, who Augustine had suggested should take over the PNM, was beaten in Buccoo/Mt Pleasant.
The PNM election camp at Shaw Park on Monday was silent as the results came in, reminiscent of January 25, when the PDP tripled its seats to leave the assembly deadlocked at six-six.
Addressing Tobago virtually after his victory, Augustine said, "Tonight is a special night. I never thought I would win the election and be addressing the entire nation. This a sign to all Tobagonians: wherever you are in the world, it doesn't matter the circumstance of your birth, you can ascend to the highest heights."
Augustine hailed the input of his political leader, whom he described as "the biggest dreamer of all of us.
"To push his younger deputy in the line of fire, that type of magnanimous gesture should never go unappreciated in Tobago."
Although unsure of the final election count, Augustine thanked all the PDP candidates.
"We are grateful for whatever victory," he said.
Discussing the PDP's approach to governance, Augustine said, "We promise you we will transform this place; we promise we will correct the wrongs of the last 21 years. And that we will do immediately.
"We ought to remain graceful in victory, because at the end of the day we wake up tomorrow as one island, even our family or friends who voted otherwise."
Augustine also chastised the Prime Minister for what he described as "bullying" tactics against Tobagonians.
"We have rejected your bullying – the bullying is not welcome in Tobago."
Saying he hoped they could share a cordial relationship, Augustine warned Dr Rowley, "Do not spite Tobago, because the Tobago I know is mighty enough to get rid of you.
"We are willing to work with you to see this island develop."
Davidson-Celestine, in her concession speech at Shaw Park, said, "The people decided they want change and so they voted the other party."
Saying the party was saddened by the result, Davidson-Celestine promised supporters that "the party will look at new ways to appeal to the public.
"The party is still strong and will not stop until we are able to take control of the THA once again.
"We will do what we have to do to ensure we are able to represent the people of Tobago in whatever ways we can."
Despite the result, Davidson-Celestine maintained that the campaign was well executed.
"We did offer to the people of Tobago exciting plans to revolutonise Tobago, however our people would prefer other options."
As she congratulated Augustine and Duke, Davidson-Celestine, who held the portfolio of health secretary, urged people to remain safe and vaccinate against covid19.