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People's National Movement

The People's National Movement (PNM) is the present-day governing political party in Trinidad and Tobago. Founded in 1955 by Eric Williams, it won the 1956 General Elections and went on to hold power for an unbroken 30 years. After the death of Williams in 1981 George Chambers led the party. The party was defeated in the 1986 General Elections, losing 33–3 to the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). Under the leadership of Patrick Manning, the party returned to power in 1991 following the 1990 attempted coup by the Jamaat al-Muslimeen, but lost power in 1995 to the United National Congress (UNC). The PNM lost again to the UNC in the 2000 General Elections, but a split in the UNC forced new elections in 2001. These elections resulted in an 18–18 tie between the PNM and the UNC, and President Arthur N. R. Robinson appointed Manning as Prime Minister. Manning was unable to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives, but won an outright majority in new elections held in 2002 and again in 2007, before losing power in 2010. It returned to power in 2015 under their leader, Keith Rowley winning 23 of the 41 seats in the 2015 General Elections.

People's National Movement
LeaderKeith Rowley
ChairpersonFranklin Khan
FounderEric Williams
Founded22 June 1955
HeadquartersBalisier House
1 Tranquility Street
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Political positionCentre-left[1] to centre-right[2]
Colors Red
House of Representatives
23 / 41
(7 September 2015–Present)
Regional municipalities
74 / 137
Regional corporations
7 / 14
(28 November 2016–Present)
Tobago House of Assembly
10 / 12
(23 January 2017-Present)
Election symbol
Balisier flower

The party symbol is the balisier flower (Heliconia bihai) and the Party's political headquarters is known as the "Balisier House" located in Port of Spain. The PNM is largely supported by the Afro-Trinidadian and Tobagonian and the Creole-Mulatto population of the country.[3]

Rise to powerEdit

When Eric Williams returned to Trinidad in 1948 he set about developing a political base. Between 1948 and 1955 he delivered a series of political lectures, under the auspices of the Political Education Movement (PEM) a branch of the Teachers Education and Cultural Association. Naparima College is one of the locations at which such lectures were delivered. On 15 January 1956 Williams launched the PNM. In the 1956 General Elections the PNM captured 13 of the 24 elected seats in the Legislative Council with 38.7% of the votes cast. In order to secure an outright majority in the Legislative Council Williams managed to convince the Secretary of State for the Colonies to allow him to name the five appointed members of the council (despite the opposition of the Governor Sir Edward Betham Beetham). This gave him a clear majority in the Legislative Council. Williams was thus elected Chief Minister and was also able to get all seven of his ministers elected.

In the 1958 Federal Elections (which the PNM contested as part of the West Indies Federal Labour Party), it won four of the 10 Trinidad and Tobago seats with 47.4% of the vote. The Opposition Democratic Labour Party won the other six seats.

Independence eraEdit

In the 1961 General Elections the PNM won 20 of 30 seats with 58% of the vote. With the collapse of the West Indian Federation the PNM led Trinidad and Tobago to independence on August 31, 1962.

In the 1966 General Elections the PNM won 24 of 36 seats with 52% of the vote. However economic and social discontent grew under PNM rule. This came to a climax in April 1970 with the Black Power Revolution. On April 13, PNM Deputy Leader and Minister of External Affairs A.N.R. Robinson resigned from the party and government. On the 20th facing a revolt by a portion of the Army in collusion with the growing Black Power movement, Williams declared a State of Emergency. By April 22 the mutineers had begun negotiations for surrender. Following this certain ministers were forced to resign including John O'Halloran, Minister of Industry and Gerard Montano, Minister of Home Affairs.

In the 1971 General Elections the PNM faced only limited opposition as the major opposition parties boycotted the election citing the use of voting machines. The PNM captured all 36 seats in the election, including eight that they carried unopposed. Additionally Williams split the post of Deputy Leader into three and appointed Kamaluddin Mohammed, Errol Mahabir and George Chambers to the position.

In 1972 J. R. F. Richardson crossed the floor and declared himself an Independent. He was subsequently appointed Leader of the Opposition. He was soon joined by another MP, Dr. Horace Charles.

In 1973 the PNM faced a major crisis. On September 28 Williams announced that he would not stand for re-election. This led to a race to succeed him as Political Leader of the party. By 18 November, 250 of 476 registered party groups had submitted nominations, 224 of them for Attorney General Karl Hudson-Phillips and 26 for Minister of Health, Kamaluddin Mohammed. Williams announced on 2 December that he would return as Political Leader and Hudson-Phillips was forced out of the party.

Decline and fallEdit

In 1976 the PNM won 24 of 36 seats with 54% of the vote. In March 1978 Hector McClean, Minister of Works, resigned from the party and government and declared himself an independent MP.

On 29 March 1981 Eric Williams died. Williams had maintained an iron grip over the party and forced all potential rivals out of the party. In the absence of a clear successor, President Ellis Clarke was left to choose the new Prime Minister from among the three Deputy Political Leaders of the party. Clarke appointed George Chambers Prime Minister in preference to Kamaluddin Mohammed and Errol Mahabir. Chambers was subsequently elected as Political Leader of the PNM and led the party to victory in the 1981 General Elections. The PNM won 26 of 36 seats and 52% of the vote.

It subsequently held on to power until 1986 when it was defeated by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) under the leadership of A.N.R. Robinson. The PNM won three of 36 seats with 32% of the vote. Chambers resigned and was succeeded by Patrick Manning as Political Leader.

Manning and the PNM re-inventedEdit

When Manning became leader he promised a "new PNM" and purposely ignored the discredited old guard. He appointed Wendell Mottley, Keith Rowley and Augustus Ramrekersingh as his deputy leaders.

The PNM was returned to power in the 1991 elections after the NAR self-destructed. In the 1991 election it won 21 of 36 seats with 45% of the vote. However, in the latter half of that term the party became unstable. It lost one seat in a by-election and another when Ralph Maraj defected to the United National Congress. The issue that led Maraj to defect was the declaration of a limited State of Emergency which sole purpose was to remove Occah Seepaul (Maraj's sister) as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The party also suffered a loss of support with the death Minister of Public Utilities, Morris Marshall, a favourite of the party grassroots. Attempting to halt the decline in party support Manning called an early "snap election" in 1995 . Many party front-benchers did not seek reelection including Finance Minister Wendell Mottley.

The party lost the 1995 General Elections winning 17 of 36 seats with 48% of the vote. The United National Congress (UNC) under the leadership of Basdeo Panday also won 17 seats and formed a coalition government with the National Alliance for Reconstruction which had won the remaining 2 seats. The PNM was further weakened when two MPs resigned from the party and threw their support behind the UNC government. This led to numerous calls for Manning to resign the party leadership, and for calls for Mottley to replace him. Manning declined to resign and Mottley appeared to have taken a sabbatical from politics. When leadership elections were held in 1997 Manning was challenged by Keith Rowley. Manning was returned as Political Leader.

In 2000 the PNM suffered another defeat, winning 16 of 36 seats with 46% of the vote. Another election was held in 2001 which resulted in a tie with both the PNM and UNC winning 18 seats, the PNM with 46% of the electoral vote and the UNC with 50%. However President Arthur N.R. Robinson appointed Manning as Prime Minister on the basis of "moral and spiritual grounds".(In Trinidad and Tobago's elections, the number of seats needed to occupy the lower house is really the best indicator of whether or not a party would win elections). Unable to elect a Speaker, Manning advised the President to prorogue Parliament. On 7 October 2002 General Elections were held in which the PNM won 50.7% of popular votes and 20 out of 36 seats.

List of leadersEdit

The following is a complete list of PNM leaders:

PM: Prime Minister
LO: Leader of the Opposition
†: Died in office

No. Leader Portrait Term of Office Position Prime Minister
1 Eric Williams   22 June 1955 29 March 1981 PM 1955–1981 himself
vacant 29 March 1981 30 March 1981
2 George Chambers 30 March 1981[4] 8 February 1987 PM 19811986 himself
3 Patrick Manning   8 February 1987 27 May 2010 LO 19861991 Robinson
PM 19911995 himself
LO 19952001 Panday
PM 20012010 himself
4 Keith Rowley   27 May 2010 Incumbent LO 20102015 Persad-Bissessar
PM 2015present himself

Electoral historyEdit

House of Representatives electionsEdit

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1956 Eric Williams 105,513 39.8%
13 / 24
  13   1st Government
1961 190,003 57.0%
20 / 30
  7   1st Government
1966 158,573 52.4%
24 / 36
  4   1st Government
1971 99,723 84.1%
36 / 36
  12   1st Government
1976 169,194 54.2%
24 / 36
  12   1st Government
1981 George Chambers 218,557 52.9%
26 / 36
  2   1st Government
1986 183,635 32.0%
3 / 36
  23   2nd Opposition
1991 Patrick Manning 233,150 45.1%
21 / 36
  18   1st Government
1995 256,159 48.8%
17 / 36
  4   1st Opposition
2000 276,334 46.5%
16 / 36
  1   2nd Opposition
2001 260,075 46.5%
18 / 36
  2   2nd Minority government
2002 308,762 50.9%
20 / 36
  2   1st Government
2007 299,813 45.85%
26 / 41
  6   1st Government
2010 285,354 39.65%
12 / 41
  14   2nd Opposition
2015 Keith Rowley 378,447 51.68%
23 / 41
  11   1st Government

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Citibank Country Profile - Trinidad and Tobago" (PDF). Citibank. Citi Transaction Services. Retrieved 24 April 2019F.
  2. ^ East, Roger; Thomas, Richard J. (2014). Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders. Routledge. p. 526. ISBN 9781317639404. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  3. ^ "The legacy of Indian migration to European colonies". The Economist. 2 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  4. ^ Alexander, Gail. "People's National Movement George Michael Chambers (1928-1997)". People's National Movement Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2019.