In late 2009, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) was facing an uncertain political future. Patrick Manning had been Prime Minister for the second time for almost eight years and Trinidadians in general felt that the government (and Manning himself) had exhausted its supply of relevance, credibility, and dignity.
Manning had carried out an ambition to put T&T firmly on the international map through hosting two international summits (the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Summit of the Americas, both in 2009) but was also plagued by rising crime and constant allegations of large and small-scale corruption, media intimidation, and hubris.
The opposition United National Congress was not, however, in a position to take advantage of the government’s problems. Their new leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, had inherited a party dominated by her predecessor. As a professional woman, leadership of her traditionally Indo-Trinidadian working class party and aspiring to leadership of her country were not straightforward tasks.
Further concern was caused by the T&T’s strong history of ethnic voting: Afro-Trinidadians tended to vote for Manning’s People’s National Movement (PNM), Indo-Trinidadians for the United National Congress (UNC). Ms Persad-Bissessar was, however, assisted by the growth in support for a new, pan-racial, and more ‘middle class’ party called the Congress of the People (COP) with whom her ‘new’ UNC might partner.
Election day saw the UNC add six seats to its tally, a feat boosted by a further six seats for the COP and two for a Tobagonian affiliate. Ultimately, the employment of CA’s research-based differential campaigns and establishment of consistent policy and variegated communications contributed to the People’s Partnership Coalition’s landslide victory. The victory likewise saw Trinidad & Tobago’s first-ever female Prime Minister. CA subsequently supported the governing coalition with ongoing advice.