Lisa Morris- Julian

More elections might be on the cards after the upcoming general election as by-elections may become possible for regional corporation seats if the four general election candidates who hold local government seats win in the general election.

This was confirmed by Local Government Ministry experts yesterday.

The PNM and UNC have a total of four general election candidates who are elected councillors and are also corporation heads.

On Tuesday, the PNM selected Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian for the D’Abadie O’Meara constituency’s general election, replacing Ancil Antoine. Constituency executive chairman Herman Noel said she began campaigning yesterday.

The PNM also has two other candidates who are elected councillors and who are corporation heads – Point Fortin candidate, Mayor Kennedy Richards and Diego Martin Central candidate Symon De Nobrega who is the chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation.

In the 2019 Local Government Elections, Morris-Julian won the Arima Central corporation seat. Richards won the Hollywood seat and De Nobrega won in Morne Coco/Alyce Glen.

The general election seats the three are contesting are – D’Abadie O’Meara, Point Fortin and Diego Martin Central – are considered PNM safe seats.

The UNC’s candidate for the Chaguanas East seat is Chaguanas Mayor Vandana Mohit. She won the Cunupia seat in Local Government polls.

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UNC general secretary Devindarath Tancoo – who is a general election candidate for Oropouche West – didn’t answer calls on the UNC’s perspective on what would occur if Mohit won Chaguanas East.

PNM general secretary Foster Cummings (candidate for La Horquetta Talparo) said he believed the Representation of the People’s Act might cover what happens when mayors who are elected councillors are general election candidates. But he couldn’t give specifics.

He said if the candidate was an alderman – who’s not elected – no by-election would be necessary. PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan referred queries to the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

The EBC referred it to Local Government authorities.

The Local Government Ministry stated general election candidates who hold corporation seats only step down if they’re successful in their general election bid.

They said the Municipal Corporation Act doesn’t specify when a by-election should be held when such vacancies arise, but the practice was usually three months.

They, however, noted that by-elections for the Belmont East and Barataria seats – where the respective PNM councillors there died in 2017 – didn’t take place in three months.

Those by-elections occurred in 2018. Cummings said the PNM would “take this election by storm because the people are happy with PNM’s performance.”

He projected a PNM victory though he couldn’t say with how many seats.

Asked about weaknesses in Tobago East where the PNM is said to be “in trouble”, Cummings said the PNM “was doing well” there. He had no comment on an alleged court issue concerning the PNM’s Moruga candidate Winston Peters.

UNC wants observers

Meanwhile, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has written Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, urging him to invite international observers to monitor the election.

Via a UNC statement, she acknowledged the global COVID-19 pandemic and the public health regulations that are currently in effect but added, “We‘re very concerned that measures aren’t in place to ensure citizens are able to exercise their franchise. International election observation or monitoring is an important mechanism for ensuring election integrity. The UNC is of the firm view international observers are needed to ensure our election is conducted in free, fair, and just manner that will reflect the true mandate of the people.”

She noted the critical role international and Caricom observers played in Guyana’s recent elections.

Persad-Bissessar noted Rowley was part of Caricom’s delegation and he could attest to the importance of international and regional observers in elections.

She added, “At this juncture, there’s sufficient time for international observers to enter T&T, undergo quarantine, and upon testing negative for COVID-19, assume their duties. Any delays in issuing invitations to international agencies, however, could lead to our nation being deprived of this integral mechanism to monitor our election.”

She called for exemptions to be granted to international observers as early as possible, so their quarantine can be completed ahead of elections. She noted, in the 2007, 2010 and 2015 elections, T&T had observers from the Commonwealth and Caricom and she didn’t see any legitimate reason for this election to be any different.