The EBC has determined that a fresh election will be held for the Lengua/Indian Walk seat in the Princes Town Regional Corporation (PTRC) after the first election was declared void for the electoral district. The “historic development” was announced by the EBC following a tie between the candidates for the United National Congress (UNC) and the People’s National Movement (PNM) after last Monday’s local government election. The 2019 council saw all ten seats being held by UNC councillors.
The UNC’s candidate in 2023 is Nicole Gopaul while Pastor Autly Granthume is the PNM’s candidate. A recount was requested by the UNC, which saw the PNM’s candidate ,Granthume losing two votes and Gopaul received three, leading to each candidate amassing 1,428 votes.
The EBC said the first recount was conducted by the returning officer between last Tuesday and Wednesday, in accordance with Election Rule 101(1) of the Representation of the People Act. A second recount was condicted on Thursday, in accordance with the Election Rule, which states: “Where a final count results in an equality of votes between or among the candidates obtaining the most votes, the Chief Election Officer or an officer designated by him for the purpose shall conduct a recount not later than four days after the poll.”
The EBC’s Chief Election Officer “Fern Narcis-Scope, acting in accordance with the Election Rule 101(15) of the Representation of the People Act, Chap 2:01 has certified to the Returning Officer for the Electoral District of Lengua/Indian Walk that the second recount which occurred between August 17-18 2023, has resulted in an equality of votes cast between the candidates obtaining the most votes. The returning officer for this electoral district has declared the election void, pursuant to this certification by the Chief Election Officer, making way for fresh elections.”
The UNC has questioned the decision over a particular ballot which was rejected by the presiding officer. The UNC is insisting the ballot should be counted, saying “Every vote counts”. Instead that ballot was rejected by the Presiding Officer on the first count, by the Returning Officer on the recount and again by the assistant Chief Election Officer on the final count.”
The EBC stated, that no one questioned the decision to reject the ballot and therefore it was never marked as questionable with a letter “Q”. The UNC responded that it was receiving legal advice over a single ballot it says was supposed to break the tie.
Co-ordinator for the PNM for the Princes Town Regional Corporation and Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon insisted ‘ it was a fair process’.