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Five candidates vie for St Joseph
Today is decision day for five candidates competing to gain the majority of the 26,891 votes in the St Joseph constituency. After an intense campaign for the local government elections just two weeks ago, the St Joseph electorate was treated to what was in effect another three-party contest for the seat. Unlike previous elections, political parties campaigned yesterday, a day usually set aside for rest from the campaign trail. Several weekly polls have placed People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate Terrence Deyalsingh, an opposition senator, out front and held the split vote responsible for the poor responses for both the United National Congress (UNC) and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP). Today’s decision will either see the UNC retaining the marginal seat; establish the ILP as a major force with a firmer footing in the political landscape; or, like the results of last month’s elections, signal the resurgence of the PNM.
There are five candidates in contention for the St Joseph seat, which was last held by sacked justice minister Herbert Volney. They are Ian Alleyne for the UNC/PP; Deyalsingh, PNM; attorney Om Lalla, ILP; talk show host and comedian Errol Fabien, independent; and Michael Lopez of the Democratic National Assembly (DNA), led by Dr Kirk Meighoo. As the campaign ended yesterday, there were last-minute moves to persuade the undecided voters to support one candidate or another. The UNC held its final rally at Aranguez, while other parties and their candidates did final walkabouts. The UNC/PP campaigned on the theme of getting the job done in government, while the PNM’s main theme was the need for stability, honesty and integrity in governance.
The ILP said there was need for better representation in St Joseph and it was the best vehicle to ensure that is achieved.
Fabien’s campaign theme was “from pavement to Parliament.” His campaign involved face-to-face house visits in the constituency, where he lives. This campaign also saw two former allies—Alleyne and Lalla—pitted against each other. The two were previously co-hosts on the Crime Watch TV programme. Alleyne took a hiatus from the show to contest the seat and has been the subject of public scrutiny since. The PNM has referred Alleyne to the Integrity Commission for alleged breaches as he began several community projects as part of his campaign. Volney’s St Joseph seat was declared vacant by Speaker Wade Mark in September after the former minister wrote to Mark to say he had resigned from the UNC—the party on whose ticket he was elected MP. Volney, a former High Court judge, subsequently announced his resignation from active politics. He was, however, seen campaigning with the ILP.
There are 53 polling stations in the constituency of St Joseph at 19 different locations, and the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s chief elections officer Ramesh Nanan said yesterday all systems were ready. Polls open at 6 am and close at 6 pm. The EBC has said that all measures are in place for today’s poll. And the police are expected to be present in large numbers to ensure law and order during the 12-hour exercise. Results should be known by 9pm tonight. The new MP is expected to be sworn in when the Parliament reconvenes. It has not sat since September 27.
The year of four elections
Today’s by-election is the fourth election in the past 11 months. The first election for the year was on January 21 for the Tobago House of Assembly, which saw the People’s Partnership coalition member—the Tobago Organisation of the People, TOP—suffer a humiliating defeat as the PNM, led by Dr Keith Rowley, won all 12 seats. On July 29, the second election for the year, the Chaguanas West by-election, resulted in another massive defeat for the main coalition member of the PP, the United National Congress, led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Former national security minister and party chairman Jack Warner retained the seat on an Independent Liberal Party ticket—a party he formed about three months ago—by a two-to-one margin. Two weeks ago, on October 21, the UNC contested a third election, this time the local government elections, which were constitutionally due. Yet again the PP was defeated at the hands of Rowley’s PNM.
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