The country has been in a state of political limbo since Monday night.
In between, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s declaration of victory and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s refusal to concede stands the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) presiding over excruciatingly slow recounts in marginal seats.
There are also legal challenges by the United National Congress which might further hold up the installation of a new government. However, these are hurdles that must be crossed before the EBC can officially release the full results of the August 10 General Election.
Until the results are declared by the EBC, President Paula-Mae Weekes cannot invite the leader of the party that won the most seats to form a government.
In effect, this means the incumbent administration will remain in place until all challenges to the election are dispensed with. For now, the country remains in a holding pattern
In some ways, the current situation is reminiscent of the anxious days between the General Election of December 10, 2001, when the People’s National Movement and UNC each won 18 seats, creating a constitutional dilemma over which party should form the government.
On that occasion, Opposition Leader Patrick Manning and Prime Minister Basdeo Panday agreed, as provided under the Constitution, to authorise President Arthur NR Robinson to appoint a new prime minister. On December 23, Robinson invited Manning to form the government, bringing to an end that period of uncertainty.
This time there is no deadlock. Save for the challenges to results in five marginals which remain to be verified, preliminary results give the advantage to the PNM.
And the longer it takes to make that final declaration, the greater the unease and fears of a possible Guyana type situation developing here. It took five painful months, dominated by allegations of vote tampering, a recount and a lengthy legal battle before Irfaan Ali was eventually sworn in as Guyana’s president. Interestingly, that final resolution came in the week before T&T went to the polls.
However, there are not too many parallels that can be drawn between the elections in Guyana and T&T, since the two nations operate under very different political systems. The first past the post system is in effect here while Guyana operates on proportional representation (PR).
At a news conference late yesterday, PNM chairman Colm Imbert declared that the painstaking method being used by the UNC for the recounts could last up to two months.
To those and other complaints, there was a swift rebuttal from UNC leader Persad-Bissessar, who is sticking to her position about “serious concerns over the fairness and transparency of the voting and overall election processes.”
Sabre rattling aside, a great deal is at stake for T&T the longer this post-election delay persists and every party involved should make it top priority to protect the integrity of a process that has served this country well through many changes of political administrations.
In all these deliberations, the best interests of T&T should be at the forefront. We appeal for good sense to prevail.