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PP down to one choice for Prez
By this weekend, the Government’s presidential nominee will be in hand and the exercise of choosing a president for T&T would have entered the final stage of completing checks and initiating notification in the relevant directions.
The choice will have come down from a list of what has been described as “a very large number—well more than a handful of names”—which was reduced to a shortlist to be given final scrutiny, government officials said. The Government’s nominee will be announced at Monday’s Cabinet meeting following which the nominee’s name will officially be submitted to the office of the House Speaker on Tuesday’s nomination day.
Parliament officials said Section 30 of the Constitution calls for the nomination paper to be signed by 12 or more members of the House of Representatives and must be delivered seven days before the election.
While the Government’s signatories for its nominations are well in hand by virtue of its 29-member holding in the House, the Opposition PNM’s 12 seats have been down to 11 since last year when PNM San Fernando East MP, Patrick Manning, suffered a stroke.
Last month Manning sought a further 42 days sick leave which will see him being absent from the House until early March—missing the February 15 meeting of the Electoral College which will elect a president. It remains to be seen if Manning will attend his constitutency’s annual Carnival fete tomorrow.
Several PNM officials declined comment yesterday on whether Manning’s absence meant his signature was unavailable for the PNM to present a nomination backed by the requisite 12 signatures and was therefore the reason the Opposition has failed to present a nominee as yet. The numbers game will be different for the February 15 Electoral College meeting.
Parliament officials said all members—including independent senators—will have to be present and can vote. The PNM members—12 MPs and six senators—even combined with the nine independents will, however, still fail to overcome the PP’s combined House and Senate votes of 29 and 16, respectively.
A vote by all members will only be taken on February 15 if there is more than one nominee, according to the Parliament. A vote in alphabetical order is usually taken when this exercise is necessary, Parliament officials confirmed. The last time there was one nominee—incumbent Richards—in 2008, the appointment was done in a very brief function since the choice was unopposed.
Richards was nominated for president by the PNM in 2003. At that time the UNC had 16 seats, the political numbers to obtain the requisite 12 signatures, and had nominated one-time senate president Ganace Ramdial.
The last time PNM was in Opposition in 1997, it also held the numbers—17 MPs—to present a nominee for president. The former UNC government presented Arthur NR Robinson and the PNM unsuccessfully nominated Justice Anthony Lucky.
PNM’s recent silence on having its own choice may have spoken volumes about its ability to do the needful to present one. Its calls to the Government to have consensus on a nominee may also testify to that situation. Late yesterday, PNM announced a proposal for a nominee seeking Government consensus.
Though PNM’s numbers ensure the Government’s choice will prevail, PNM has signalled its intention not to support any nominee from the Parliament, telegraphing opposition to hints that House Speaker Wade Mark, Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith and COP MP Winston Dookeran are among the nominees.
The choice of president will be particularly significant for the PP after mid-term has seen the administration losing its political virginity in terms of defeat in recent Tobago House of Assembly polls. PNM’s victory which has taken Opposition stocks from its 2010 low to a 2013 high is being enjoyed by PNMites and is expected to manifest at Tuesday’s PNM Carnival fete.
It remains to unfold whether the Government’s choice for president will aid its political recuperation or compound its issues.
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