Eyes on a handful of marginal battlegrounds today.
Turnout in those areas throughout today’s Local Government elections are expected to produce tonight’s results.
Yesterday, Elections and Boundaries Commission officials assured all systems are on “go” for today’s voting which will begin at 6 am.
It is T&T’s 13th LG election after the first in 1971. Contestants are vying for 139 seats in the 14 regional corporation areas in Trinidad.
The total number of candidates stands at 338 instead of the initially announced 339. The EBC explained this is because Congress of the People candidate Yannick Brian Lezama recently officially submitted documents withdrawing his candidacy for Five Rivers (Tunapuna/Piarco). Lezama had withdrawn as a COP candidate. His name was recently found on the Opposition UNC’s list of aldermen for Tunapuna/Piarco.
Candidates are from seven parties, including eight Independent candidates. The ruling PNM and Opposition UNC are the only parties fielding a full slate of 139 candidates each.
Tunapuna/Piarco is among marginal battlegrounds in today’s poll. Others include Sangre Grande (including Sangre Grande South, Valencia West and other areas), Siparia (including Otaheite-Rousillac and others), Barataria and California/Pt Lisas.
Special electors’ voting, which began last Monday, ended at 6 pm yesterday (Sun).
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is expected vote at 8.30 am at the International School, Westmoorings, the PNM indicated.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar votes between 10.30 am-11 am at Hermitage Presbyterian school, the UNC confirmed.
COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan votes in San Fernando. However, PPM’s Louis Lee Sing said there are only PNM and UNC candidates where he lives and he wasn’t voting.
Today’s election will be the first major electoral test for all sides in Trinidad since 2016. With T&T heading to general elections in the next nine to 12 months, the traditionally low key Local Government election environment was swamped in this LG campaign by a general election air—focus on national issues including alleged corruption—ahead of Local Government reform.
The ruling PNM’s campaigned on “Getting It Done” during its term and future plans. The Opposition UNC campaigned on what’s been undone and its governance plans for the future. Both sides have targetted each other’s leaderships and both have wooed cross-ethnic votes.
After last Saturday’s final surges, contestants yesterday finalised election-day machinery.
More campaign problems—talk, theft
Yesterday, Council for Responsible Political Behaviour (CRPB) chairman Dr Bishnu Ragoonath appealed to citizens to let democracy prevail and for everyone to be allowed to proceed on their lawful business today, “Without restriction, harassment or intimidation.”
“Please follow election rules and police instruction,” he added.
During the campaign, the CRPB had expressed deep concern at certain platform language, noting instances where “respect, tolerance, peace and harmony weren’t upheld by parties, candidates and supporters and that questions remained on improper use of inducements.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office stated Rowley had instructed his attorneys to sue UNC Febeau/Bourgh Mulatresse candidate Devon Thomas as soon as elections conclude for Thomas’ platform statements last Saturday.
Yesterday also, UNC general secretary Dev Tancoo wrote to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith reporting that thieves broke into the home of UNC’s Belmont South candidate Eric Blackman last Saturday, stealing his daughter’s laptop. It was described as being vital to Blackman’s election day machinery.
Several other reports were also made to police from UNC and the COP during the campaign.
The EBC also experienced certain bugbears. Five days before special electors’ voting began, ballot papers from 40 of the 139 electoral areas were found to be defective after some Returning Officers made incorrect marking on these. None were distributed. Ballots were retrieved and new ones issued. They were in the EBC CEO’s custody pending legal advice EBC sought on disposal.