Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

Political Dynamics

Between independence in 1962 and 1986, politics in Trinidad and Tobago was inseparable from the story of Williams and the party he founded, the PNM. Even after his death in 1981, Williams's legacy helped win another five-year term for the PNM. As the first leader in a newly independent country, Williams set many precedents and came to be seen as the father of the country. Williams's legitimacy derived from his education, his charisma, his speaking ability, and his personal identification with the lower class blacks in Trinidad. He also was an astute politician who did not hesitate to be ruthless if maintaining his power and leadership depended on it. As time went on, power within the PNM became increasingly centralized and Williams less tolerant of dissent. In spite of his high-handed way of dealing with PNM members who disagreed with him during his twenty-five years as prime minister, Williams left Trinidad and Tobago with a functioning democratic political system, including a free press and a healthy opposition whose leaders had been trained in PNM ranks. Throughout Williams's tenure as prime minister, there were numerous strikes and labor disputes. Labor leaders formed various coalitions and parties, but none of these was sufficiently powerful to gain control of the government.

Postindependence PNM rule can be divided into four phases: 1962-69, a period of consolidation and economic hardship; 1970-73, a time of economic and political troubles that included the Black Power riots; 1974-81, a period of prosperity and increased government centralization; and 1981-86, the period after Williams's death when George Chambers was prime minister.

On December 15, 1986, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), under the leadership of A.N.R. Robinson, won the election by a landslide. The NAR captured thirty-three out of the thirty-six House seats, including that of Prime Minister Chambers and his two deputies.

Data as of November 1987