The ruling People’s National Movement and Opposition United National Congress are the only two political parties fielding full teams of 139 candidates each for the December 2 Local Government polls.
Several small parties—the Port-of-Spain Peoples’ Movement, Movement for Social Justice and Congress of the People—are also fielding candidates in certain areas. And a few people from both the PNM and UNC are contesting as Independents in crucial “battleground” areas, including Sangre Grande and Tunapuna/Piarco.
The scenario emerged after yesterday’s Nomination Day exercise when candidates contesting the election filed nomination papers with the Elections and Boundaries’ Commission (EBC). After registration, the EBC stated that Chief Election officer Fern Narcis-Scope had confirmed that all initial reports pointed to a smooth event-free process.
Registration Day was a colourful event in certain areas which are expected to be hotly contended, with some candidates parading to EBC offices to the strains of tassa or accompanied by teams and high-ranking party officials such as ministers, MPs and senators. At 6.15 pm, EBC officials said the information was still being compiled on the final number of candidates, including reported Independents.
Checks revealed that Videsh Ramsingh, outgoing UNC alderman in Sangre Grande, filed nomination papers to contest Sangre Grande South as an Independent. He said he wanted to offer public service. Sangre Grande, where UNC and PNM tied for that corporation in 2016 LG elections, has been widely acknowledged as the “battleground” which could determine the upcoming election’s outcome. Ramsingh will be competing against PNM and UNC candidates.
Martin Gonzales, outgoing PNM Maracas/Santa Margarita councillor in Tunapuna/Piarco, also confirmed he filed to contest independently in the same seat and will be fighting PNM and UNC candidates there.
“People asked me to continue serving them due to my track record. It’s nothing against any political party,” Gonzales said.
Other independents were reported in Chaguanas but one reportedly dropped out. EBC officials said full figures should be known by today.
PNM public relations officer Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing said: “All 139 of our candidates successfully filed nomination papers. No one had any problems or discrepancies so we have a full slate for the election and we’re busy campaigning.”
PNM is in south Trinidad at Skiffle Bunch pan yard tonight and is expected to have a public meeting at the Croisee in San Juan on Thursday.
UNC general secretary Dev Tancoo told the T&T Guardian: “Our full slate of 139 candidates was successfully registered with EBC by 1 pm yesterday—no problems. We, however, got a report of alleged assistance rendered to a PNM candidate in San Juan. We’re receiving a statement on this and once received, we’ll submit a written complaint to EBC. It didn’t affect our candidates in San Juan but if there’s any issue, we ‘d like it on record. We’re now in full campaign mode: more one on one engagement with people, less big meetings.”
The PNM and UNC are both contesting in capital Port-of-Spain along with Louis Lee Sing’s Port-of-Spain People’s Movement (PPM)—a three-way contest for the 12 PoS seats.
But while PPM’s 12 candidates were successfully registered yesterday, Lee Sing complained of “disrespectful treatment” by PNM’s Port-of-Spain contingent when he accompanied PPM candidates to file nominations.
“The Red (PNM) team engaged in heckling me outside of the EBC’s returning officer’s premises around 10.30 am/11 am. That included calling me no neck. It was a group of largely women behaving in a way more suitable to a brothel and Mr Young was most present captaining the group. He didn’t say anything to me but he certainly didn’t stop the PNM’s disgraceful behaviour or try to set a better example for his team,” he said
Young didn’t answer calls. Lee Sing said his initial candidate for St Anns’ River South (former PNM PoS councillor Ashtine Thomason) was replaced by Mitchell Richardson since Thomason’s change of address due to a fire disqualified her from contesting in St Anns’ River South. Also, PPM’s original St James East candidate Sheldon Ali was replaced by Justin Bailey since Ali’s address disqualified him.
Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah said the party initially planned 35 candidates contesting in about eight corporations. But the final number registered yesterday was 26 candidates contesting in Point Fortin, Siparia, San Fernando, Diego Martin, San Juan/Laventille and one seat in the Princes Town Corporation.
“There were some minor issues for some of our candidates in places like San Fernando but everything was sorted out,” Abdulah said.
COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said the party had problems in registering its planned 15 candidates and up to last night she had confirmation that only nine had successfully filed nominations.
“COP candidates got through in Diego Martin, San Fernando, Couva, Chaguanas and Sangre Grande. But we had the most problems with our candidates for Tunapuna/Piarco,” she said.
1,079969 eligible to vote Dec 2
The EBC’s current electorate list shows a total of 1,079,969 people are eligible to vote on December 2.
Yesterday was also the deadline for submission of Special Electors’ applications.
In the November 2016 poll, electors numbered 1,054,817.
Then, PNM won with 174, 7554 votes to UNC’s 180, 758, both tied in Sangre Grande. Six other small parties got a total of approximately 2,886 votes. Independents polled 1, 071. Voter turnout was 34.34 per cent with a total of 362, 254 votes cast.
Reporter: Gail Alexander