The electoral college will meet next month to elect a new president of T&T.
Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed announced the February 15 date during the first post-Cabinet news conference for the year at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday.
President George Maxwell Richards is expected to complete his second five-year term on March 17, and under the Constitution a president has to be elected at least 30 days before the term expires.
Mohammed said the election was being held in accordance with Section 26 (4) of the Constitution, which provides that an election “shall be held not more than 60 days or less than 30 days before the expiration of the term of that office.”
He said the election must be held no sooner than January 17 and no later than February 18.
Mohammed said the Speaker of the House was responsible for the conduct of the election and must announce the date in the Gazette not less than 21 days or more than 30 days before the election.
He said after that was done, Speaker Wade Mark is required to inform members by letter of the meeting of the electoral college. “The Speaker has recommended to the Prime Minister, and Cabinet has duly noted that Friday, February 15, 2013, is the date selected by the Speaker of the House for the convening of a meeting of the electoral college for the election of a president of T&T.”
February 15 is the Friday after Carnival.
Mohammed said in accordance with Section 30 of the Constitution, the deadline for nominations is Tuesday, February 5.
While Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Richards had not been ruled out for an unprecedented third term as head of state, sources close to the president said he was not expected to accept any request to serve
another term. The source said Richards was happy and honoured to have served T&T as president for ten consecutive years, but would be happy at the end of his second term to return to private life.
Sources told the T&T Guardian that Richards was asked if he would be interested in serving “a few more years” but had declined the offer.
Government sources remained tight-lipped on possible nominations for the post when contacted by the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Only recently, National Security Minister Jack Warner was very critical of Richards, describing him as a “PNM puppet” for seeking information from the PM about the so-called Section 34 fiasco under Section 81 of the Constitution.
In November last year, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley led a delegation of trade union leaders at a meeting with Richards, asking him to ask the PM about the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011.
It was proclaimed in August and repealed two weeks later after an emergency sitting of the Parliament. The Prime Minister fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney, saying he misled the Cabinet about the support of Chief Justice Ivor Archie for the early proclamation of Section 34.
CJ Archie said he was not consulted.
Warner said on December 22: “In his last remaining days as president, His Excellency may feel emboldened to use his office to interfere in the politics of this nation but he may also have misjudged the ire of critics and the sensitivity of the population. The mask of President Richards has fallen and the entire nation can now see him for who he has always been—a political puppet of the former (PNM) administration, placed there to bolster the political fortunes of the People’s National Movement.”
Richards was first elected on March 17, 2003, replacing President Arthur NR Robinson. He was re-elected on March 17, 2009, for a second term.
Richards, previously served as principal of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies and was awarded the country’s highest award—the Trinity Cross, as it was called—in 2003.