Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Stick to the law! The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is keeping an eagle eye peeled on today’s local government elections with a special team of roving officers to monitor complaints and a ban on use of cellphones and all other electronic devices in polling booths. Chief executive officer of the EBC Ramesh Nanan spoke about the situation yesterday, the eve of today’s election which many believe will be one of the most critically-contested local government polls. Focus in T&T will fall on today’s “ground game” following the recent bruising three-week campaign, including to see whether there is a higher than usual turnout for this particular local government polls, the first electoral exercise since 2010 involving all of Trinidad.
A total of 427 candidates involving eight political parties and several Independents are contesting the polls. Some 1,036,721 voters are eligible to cast ballots in the Trinidad poll according to EBC figures up to October 7. The major parties staged large rallies last Saturday in central Trinidad and the East-West Corridor—key locations in today’s exercise—as they did for last-minute surges for an expected three-way fight among the ruling People’s Partnership, Opposition People’s National Movement and recently-formed Independent Liberal Party. Nanan yesterday advised electors to follow the instructions of presiding officers at polling stations.
He said the use of cellphones and any type of electronic device—laptop, cameras, mini laptop, I-Pad, etc—are all prohibited in the polling booths. “Voters can leave such items in a receptacle which will be provided at stations for that purpose before they enter the voting booth...They can retrieve them after voting,” he said. Nanan also said assembling or canvassing is also prohibited within a 100-yard limit of a polling station. “The police and supervising officers are fully aware of this prohibition and will advise accordingly,” he said. Nanan added that bribery and treating are also offences under election rules and are not to be condoned. “If anyone is offered a bribe to vote or not to vote in a particular way, that matter should be reported to the police,” he added.
He said each EBC returning officer has been assigned a roving officer who will make periodic visits to polling stations in the respective district to ensure established procedure is followed. After tonight’s receipt of results, Nanan said, the EBC will work out and finalise selection of aldermen under the new proportional representation system—being used for the first time in this election—by Friday latest. The system utilises a mathematical formula to work out aldermen.
The PP coalition, headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is the only political entity fielding candidates in all 136 corporation seats up for contest, with 77 UNC, 52 COP and eight NJAC candidates, the EBC’s communication division confirmed. The Opposition PNM headed by Keith Rowley is fielding 135 candidates. The ILP, led by Warner, has 130. The Movement for Social Justice, headed by David Abdulah, is contesting 16 seats in seven areas. The EBC also stated the New National Vision party headed by Fuad Abu Bakr is contesting two seats in south and west Trinidad. The Seers Team party lead by Cherryl Joseph is fielding three candidates in West, Central and South, the EBC stated. Independent candidates are Krishna Ramkissoon in a Central seat, Loul Rampersad in an eastern area and Roger Francis and Jonathan Job, both in a western seat, EBC confirmed. Today’s exercise is the third electoral test for the ruling PP coalition government for the year. It was preceded in January by the Tobago House of Assembly, won by the Opposition.
In July, the Chaguanas West by-election was won by Warner who formed the ILP then. Today’s poll will also be followed in two weeks by the St Joseph by-election. The PP, formed in 2010, has mounted a strong offensive for today’s three-way fight to defend turf in the 11 corporations which it won in the 2010 local government polls, soon after that year’s general election victory. The three-month old ILP is seeking to win all corporations, targetting PP-held areas. The 58-year-old PNM, now in Opposition, aims to increase the three corporations it won in 2010 by retaking several and increasing seats on others, and overtake both PP and ILP numbers. On the mood of contenders, UNC deputy leader Suruj Rambachan yesterday said: “ I’m very optimistic about the outcome. We’ve done our campaign work and our work as government and people will judge us on that. Our machinery is in place and MPs are managing clusters of candidates. We’re fighting each area with equal attention as we know winning is important to continue our progress. We wish everyone the best.”
COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said: “We presented our candidates and aldermen on a campaign which was completely local and on issues and on that basis we ran a good campaign. Our machinery is well placed and I’m happy with it.” PNM chairman Franklin Khan said: “We’re bringing out our voters and we’re cautiously optimistic we’ll do extremely well. We have good, fine-tuned election day machinery in place. Last Saturday was the culmination of the PNM’s resurgence which we want to translate into electoral victory Monday and keep that momentum up for the St Joseph by-election.” ILP chairman Robin Montano said: “We remain confident we’ll do well. We’re little more than three months and not only become a major contender, but we look as if we’re in a position, not only to do well, but to actually win the local government elections.” MSJ leader David Abdulah said: “This election will be important in determining what people are thinking. Our vibes from the ground are very encouraging. The politics is opening up and very dynamic and between now and general election will be a very active time and we’ll be part of that process.”
In today’s exercise, voters will cast ballots in two additional seats according to the EBC’s 2011 order which increased the number of local government seats from 134—which was contested in 2010—to 136. Couva /Tabaquite/Talparo Corporation increased from 13 to 14 seats and the Princes Town Corporation also increased from nine to 10 seats. The EBC order also stipulated changes to the internal boundaries of almost half the corporations. These included in six of the eight Chaguanas seats, two Port-of-Spain seats, five Arima seats, three Point Fortin seats and two Mayaro seats. Today, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar will vote at San Francique Hindu Primary School at 11 am, her secretariat said. Former prime minister Patrick Manning votes at San Fernando Methodist Primary School at 11 am, he confirmed. Opposition Leader Keith Rowley votes at St Anthony’s College in Diego Martin this morning, PNM officials said. ILP’s Sunil Ramjitsingh said leader Jack Warner would vote in Arouca but hadn’t advised at what time. Special voting which began last Tuesday and ended yesterday has seen a steady stream of people at most EBC posts. For today’s exercise, EBC shifted polling stations 1325 and 1330 from St Dominic’s Xavier and Barataria RC School both to St Georges’ College, Barataria due to recent earthquake damage at the other two locations.
About today’s exercise
• Workers are allowed two hours off to vote according to the Representation of the People Act.
• Voting starts 6 am, ends 6 pm.
• There are 14 municipalities in contention.
• Cities of Port-of-Spain, San Fernando.
• Boroughs of Pt Fortin, Arima, Chaguanas.
• Corporations of Diego Martin, San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco, Sangre Grande, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo, Princes Town, Rio Claro/Mayaro, Penal/Debe, Siparia.
• 136 seats up for contest.
• Four aldermen’s posts per municipality under new proportional representation system—total of 66 aldermen for selection.
• Winning one eighth of the votes cast is necessary for a candidate to get back a deposit.
• There are: 1,449 polling divisions.
• 2,080 polling stations, mainly schools.
• 2,080 EBC presiding officers.
• Total T&T electorate @ October 7—1, 083,794.
• Total electorate in Tobago East and West, respectively—21,590, 25,483.
• Total Trinidad electorate for today’s poll—1, 036,721.
• Tunapuna/Piarco has the largest voter population.
• In the 2010 local government polls, PP won 99 seats in 11 corporations.
• In 2010, seats parties contested numbered—83 (UNC), 50 (COP), 132 (PNM).
• 2010 local government electorate—998,787.
• 2010 local government voter turnout—386,830.
• 2010 local government percentage turnout—30 per cent.
• Voter turnout over 1999/2003—37 to 38 per cent.
• Prior to 2010 local government poll, the election wasn’t held for seven years.
• PNM had “landslide” 2003 win of nine of 14 corporations.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.