May 10, 17 and 24 are being speculated on as likely general election dates. Top PNM party sources say Prime Minister Patrick Manning is likely to announce the date for the general election, which is not constitutionally due until 2012, this week. The last time Manning called a snap election was in 1995, when the People's National Movement (PNM) was beaten by the United National Congress (UNC). However, top party members revealed to Sunday Guardian that there was a strong possibility Manning might instruct President George Maxwell Richards to dissolve Parliament on Tuesday. The directive, top members said, would follow the revelation of the Uff report into the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott) and the construction sector that is expected to be laid in the Senate the same day.
A member of the party's hierarchy said: "What this means is that it is more than likely that the Prime Minister will make an appearance in the Senate on Tuesday, and announce his interactions to dissolve Parliament. "This will squash any debate arising out of the Uff Report, and will immediately block the no-confidence motion expected to be filed by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Friday. This move will leave no door open for debate." If Parliament is dissolved on Tuesday, the Prime Minister has a minimum of 35 days to inform the Elections and Boundaries Commission of the date when the general election will be held.
The top party member revealed further: "If Parliament is dissolved on Tuesday, 35 days from that date falls exactly on May 9. General elections are always held on a Monday. "If the Prime Minister opts to hold his hands until Friday, which is a very slim possibility when the no-confidence motion is expected to be filed, the 35 days will fall smack on May 14. "This means the electorate will be heading to the polls on May 17." Last week, Manning prepared his troops for battle when he announced that a massive rally was planned for Friday in Port-of-Spain–the same day the no-confidence motion is expected to be filed against him.
PNM: Deadline challenging
However, Sunday Guardian has learnt that some constituencies are facing a challenge with meeting the April 6 deadline for the nomination of candidates. Point Fortin, Mayaro, and San Fernando West are among those. "The closing of nominations on Tuesday comes across a bit unreasonable. Half of T&T is currently in a festive mood, and party groups have been mandated to meet and select potential candidates," said a spokesman from South. According to the members, there must be a quorum for all party group meetings. "Because of the deadline, we are forced to do some adjustments. What is taking place in some constituencies is that names of potential candidates are being submitted even before some of them are informed. "This is because we were instructed that we have to meet the deadline. It is plenty work to be done in a short space of time. We are confident about winning, but the margin is going to be slimmer than in previous years."