It’s Election Day in Trinidad and Tobago.
Today citizens exercise their votes and elect a candidate of their choice to represent their needs in Parliament for the next five years.
According to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), 19 political parties with a total of 146 candidates and 4 independent candidates are contesting the elections in 41 constituencies.
There are also several independents running: Shiraz Khan (Chaguanas East), Thomas Sotillio (Moruga/Tableland), Errol Fabien (St Joseph) and Ricardo Phillip (Tobago West).
The People’s National Movement (PNM) won the election in 2015 with 378,729 votes or 51.75 percent while the Opposition, United National Congress’ (UNC) secured 290,074 votes (39.64 percent).
Congress of the People (COP) secured the third spot with 43,914 votes (six percent) while the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and the National Joint Action Assembly (NJSC), which both received one percent of the vote.
The PNM won 23 seats while the UNC won the remaining 18.
Many have called for the election to be postponed because of the Covid-19 virus and the rapid number of cases that have been reported in the last two weeks.
Others have also expressed concern with the election process which is anticipated to be longer than usual given the sanitisation rules at each polling station.
One political leader has advised her supporters to expect delays.
Persons are also concerned about voter turnout. Many Trinidad and Tobago nationals of voting age are still out of the country, and there are many who are disappointed with the way in which the Government handled the repatriation of nationals.
In 2015, the voter turn out was 66.8 percent.
Still, there are many who are pleased with the way the past Government handled the Covid-19 situation given the country’s economic standing.
See below a number of seats contested by the party:
People’s National Movement – 41
United National Congress – 39
Progressive Empowerment Party – 28
Trinidad Humanity Campaign – 7
New National Vision – 6
Movement for Social Justice – 5
Congress of the People – 4
Movement for National Development – 3
Progressive Democratic Patriots – 2
National Coalition for Transformation – 2
Progressive Party – 1
Independent Liberal Party – 1
Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago – 1
The Nationwide Organization of We the People – 1
The Unrepresented Peoples Party – 1
The Trinidad and Tobago Democratic Front – 1
The National Party – 1
One Tobago Voice – 1
Unity of the People – 1
The EBC released a list of rules which candidates and political parties must obey.
One such notice is that Bribery, Treating and Undue influence are all against the law.
Political Parties are not allowed to give money, valuable consideration, gifts, food, drink, or entertainment or use intimidation of any kind to persuade or influence voters.
Anyone found guilty of these offences can, on summary conviction, face a fine of fifteen thousand dollars and six months imprisonment while conviction on indictment carries a fine of thirty thousand dollars along with 1 year in jail.
Political parties and their representatives are also restricted from displaying badges, banners, flags, and signs on any motor vehicle with persons in contravention facing a seven thousand five hundred dollar fine or 6 months in jail.
Meanwhile, voters are reminded that there are several laws which they too must observe.
It is illegal to congregate in a polling station or within 100 yards of one unless the persons congregating are doing so in order to vote and have formed a queue at the direction of EBC officials of the police.
Persons in violation of this law are liable to a fine of up to seven thousand, five hundred dollars, or three months in prison.
It is also illegal to vote in more than one electoral district or more than once in the same district.
This carries a fine of 15 thousand dollars or six months in jail.
Voting as someone else whether the person is living, dead or fictitious is also illegal and carries a fine of thirty thousand dollars AND 5 years in prison.
The EBC is also reminding bars and restaurants that no intoxicating liquor is to be sold, offered, exposed for sale, or given away between polling hours.
Persons and establishment owners found in violation face a fifteen thousand dollar fine or a 6-month jail sentence.
The notice posted to its website also cited the prohibition of live music until two hours after the polls have closed…an act which carries a seven thousand five-hundred-dollar fine or six months in jail.