PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago has elected its first female prime minister in an early election, ousting an incumbent hurt by soaring crime and allegations of public corruption.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her five-party People's Partnership coalition won 29 of 41 seats in the Caribbean nation's parliament, according to preliminary election results Tuesday.
The 59-year-old attorney told thousands of supporters at a celebration early Tuesday morning that her government will not allow one ethnic group or social class to dominate the twin-island country.
"We will build on our collective strength and character and everyone of us will rise; no one will be left behind," said Persad-Bissessar, whose United National Congress party draws support mainly from people of East Indian ancestry.
Two-term incumbent Prime Minister Patrick Manning had called elections 30 months ahead of schedule. His People's National Movement, which draws most of its support from people of African descent, held a 26-15 advantage in the House of Representatives before the vote.
"We accept the results and I accept full responsibility for it," Manning told his supporters late Monday night. He said he will be evaluating his own future after 40 years in politics.
Ahead of Monday's vote, Persad-Bissessar promised more community-based policing, higher pensions and a fund for children who need medical treatment they can only get elsewhere.
Manning, who also served as prime minister for four years in the early 1990s, highlighted his government's spending on education and training programs for young people. His campaign warned that the economy could suffer from handing the vital energy sector to a government without Manning's experience.