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EBC official: Election rules not flouted
Even though election rules state that political canvassing on an election day is prohibited and punishable by law, reports yesterday suggest that die-hard supporters of their parties continued to campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) poll in Tobago. But this according to a top Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) official, is not strictly prohibited in law.
According to the law, it is illegal to— canvass on an election day, sell alcohol and impersonate another voter. Shortly after voting began yesterday morning reports surfaced that electronic canvassing was being conducted by the two main parties in the election, the incumbent PNM and rival Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP).
Around mid-morning the first report came from TOP election observers who arrived on the island for the election. One who said he was “politically involved” in Trinidad, charged that PNM supporters were canvassing via the internet throughout election day.
Shortly after, the Tobago PNM Council claimed the TOP was doing likewise, this time using automated telephone calls and text messages. The observer claimed that a PNM activist used a website to canvass throughout the day on the internet. It was further claimed that from as early as 12.05 am Monday, there was a campaign on the internet against Ashworth Jack (TOP’s leader) and the UNC.
Denise Tsoi-a-Fatt Angus of the Tobago PNM Council told the T&T Guardian that from 7 am there were reports of people receiving telephone calls saying vote for the TOP. She said party supporters confirmed receiving similar text messages.
On reports of violence during Sunday’s Las Lap motorcades by the parties, Tsoi-a-Fatt Angus said a PNM supporter was hit on the head with a block in Goodwood. She said the victim received stitches for the wound and the alleged assailant was arrested.
She said another PNM supporter was chopped at Bacolet and had to be hospitalised. Commenting on the electronic canvassing, Ramesh Nanan of the EBC said the matter was brought to the commission’s attention. He noted, however, that, according to the Representation of the People’s Act, this was not illegal. “There’s nothing in the act that specifically prohibits it,” Nanan said yesterday.
He added that if someone is caught canvassing electronically within the precincts of a polling station, the matter can be reported by the elections officer to the police. Nanan said he spent the day visiting polling stations and, from all indications, voting around the island was incident-free. Controversial THA Assemblyman and deputy chief secretary Hilton Sandy cast his vote after 7 am yesterday at the Scarborough RC School.
He said he did not think his “Calcutta statement” thought to be racially offensive, affected his campaign and did not see why the PNM could not be installed in the THA for a fourth consecutive term. The T&T Guardian was told by residents that more people came out to vote in this election than in previous years. Many of them expressed relief and said they hoped for change.
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