THE deadlock in the Tobago’s House of Assembly (THA) will end today when the electorate returns to the polls.
The election will be historic on many fronts as it is the first in Tobago’s history to feature 15 seats.
It will also be the second election in less than a year, after the January 25 polls ended in an unprecedented six-six tie between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).
Attempts at working through the result and electing a THA presiding officer were futile as both parties refused to support nominees from the opposite side. Power-sharing negotiations also fizzled out as the PNM and PDP remained at loggerheads.
However, Parliament intervened in March and the THA (Amendment) Act was passed. It was proclaimed in July by President Paula-Mae Weekes, giving the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) the mandate to propose changes to the electoral boundaries from 12 to 15.
The EBC report was passed in Parliament in September by a simple majority – 21 for and 18 against.
Although Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced the new election date on October 6, the island has been in election mode for the entire. year as politicians and the public anticipated a rematch.
Last week, a North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll suggested the race is too close to call, between the PNM and PDP, but gave the former a slight edge owing to its incumbency and resources.
Although a seven-seven-one result is possible, an alliance to create leadership would be sufficient to govern the THA.
The election will feature 45 candidates from five political parties. Only the PNM and PDP are contesting all 15 districts. The Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA), which was launched in August by Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus, is contesting 13 electoral districts. Unity of the People’s Nickocy Phillips and Class Action Reform political leader Ricardo Phillip are vying for Buccoo/Mt Pleasant.
Similar to January, the PDP has given its deputy leader Farley Augustine the mandate to lead its election campaign. The Parlatuvier/L’anse Fourmi/Speyside candidate is the party’s choice once again to assume the role of Chief Secretary if the party is successful.
The PDP has stayed the course from the January election when it tripled the number of seats from the 2017 election. The party stuck with five of the six defeated candidates, hoping their ground work and campaigning from late 2020 would reap reward.
The PNM Tobago Council, led by Tracy Davidson-Celestine, has gone a different route. The party has brought fresh faces seeking to revitalise the party. After a January campaign interrupted by internal rumblings caused by the rejection of Tsoiafatt Angus as a candidate, the PNM has sought to showcase a united front this time around.
Although losing four seats last election, the PNM retained the popular vote by a slim margin.
The EBC said with an electorate of 51,062 registered voters, 26,385 votes were cast – a voter turnout of 51.84 per cent.
It said the PNM got 13,288 votes and the PDP received 12,798.
It is left to be seen how the issues ventilated on the campaign trail would resonate would the population.
The adjustment of the electoral boundaries from 12 to 15 by the EBC has not been without controversy. The United National Congress (UNC) and PDP have cried foul and accused the EBC of favouring the PNM in the creation of the three new seats.
The additional seats, all in the Tobago West area, were born from traditional PNM seats.
Bacolet resident June Jack-McKenzie also took umbrage with the EBC’s criteria in the creation of new seats, particularly with the consideration of not “fragmenting communities.”
However, her High Court challenge was dismissed last month by Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams who said Jack-McKenzie failed to prove she had an arguable case.
Although there were calls by the PDP political leader Watson Duke for international observers for the election, the request was not granted.
Last week, the EBC announced the implementation of a date entry system to track the number of voters in two electoral districts. The pilot project will not interfere with the regular voting procedure and will run parallel to the manual voting process. The project will be featured in all polling stations in Scarborough/Mt Grace and Mt St George/Goodwood.
Signal Hill/Patience Hill
Bon Accord/Crown Point
Goodwood/Mt St George