UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the party’s Monday Night Virtual Report.

UNC activist Devant Maharaj will file nomination papers this morning for the party’s leadership contest along with incumbent Kamla Persad-Bissessar and challenger Vasant Bharath.

Maharaj confirmed last Friday that he will file documents as a solo contender. While he is as critical of the current leadership as Bharath is Maharaj said he is not with Bharath’s slate.

Nominations are open between 8 am to 4 pm today for the December 6 internal election where the leadership and national executive posts will be contested. Nominations will be presented at the UNC’s Couva head office.

The party’s election rules manual states that the announcement of validly nominated candidates will be on November 23. That date will also be the deadline for withdrawal of candidates if any wish to do so after filing papers today.

The manual states that posts open for the contest on December 6 include political leader, three deputy leaders, chairman, deputy chairman, policy/strategy officer, education, research and election officers, treasurer, party organiser, international relations officers and regional officers.

Persad-Bissessar is expected to file her papers this morning. Nobody could give a time last Friday. Bharath will file his papers at 9.45 am, as he stated in a press release last Friday.

UNC’s Constitution states that elected MPs aren’t eligible to seek executive posts. As a result Tancoo, who had functioned as general secretary since 2010 when Persad-Bissessar became leader, stepped down recently after becoming the Oropouche West MP.

Tancoo and Persad- Bissessar are the two longest-serving executive members since the UNC’s 2010 heyday when the party formed part of the People’s Partnership coalition government.

Outgoing PRO Anita Haynes said recently she is no longer in that post after becoming Tabaquite MP. Newly elected MPs Arnold Ram, Rai Ragbir and Ravi Ratiram are also part of the outgoing executive.

Persad- Bissessar’s slate for the contest is being kept under wraps. UNC sources said her team will comprise youth and experience and includes certain business people.

Bharath’s supporting slate is expected to include attorney Larry Lalla (for chairman) and Barrington “Skippy” Thomas, former ODPM head Dr Stephen Ramroop and former Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial. He is also reported to have support from certain unsuccessful general elections candidates and nominees.

Maharaj who has no slate is questioning whether the process will be free and fair.

The party’s election rules follow the model for the 2017 polls with added COVID-19 regulations. Voters will have to sanitise their hands and have their temperatures taken at voting stations, as well as remove their masks to have their identity verified.

Preparations for the internal elections have been taking place since November 4 which was the deadline for membership applications to be included on the preliminary voters’ list. The lists were posted in constituencies from November 9 to last Friday according to election rules. The posting of the final voters’ lists will be done in all constituencies on November 23.

Voters’ names must be on the list for them to vote. Holding of membership cards alone won’t facilitate voting. Special voting will be done on December 3.

Candidates have to pay a non -refundable nomination fee of $500 today. Any requests for a recount will have to be made by noon on December 7.

The election will be supervised by a team headed by Ramesh Persad-Maharaj.

In recent days activists and influencers from have been lobbying UNC members and potential members to submit membership forms and vote.