Back to the THA polls for Tobago – DEC 6 TO BREAK 6-6 TIE

TOBAGONIANS will return to the polls on December 6 for what has been described as a “rematch” to break the January 25 six-six deadlock between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP).

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced the election date on Wednesday during a post Executive Council media briefing.

“I am looking forward to this and I am quite happy and relieved that we can finally go to the polls,” he said.

The PNM and PDP have already begun campaigning and opened nominations for selection of candidates.

Last month, the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) order to increase the number of electoral districts from 12 to 15 was passed in Parliament by a simple majority.

This election, the first-ever with 15 seats, is set to feature a third horse in the race – the Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA). Tobago’s newest party is headed by a familiar face – expelled PNM member Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus.

But with the election set for just four months after the IDA was formed, it is left to be seen if it has enough time to sway voters its way. Another mystery is the impact of the three new electoral districts on the finely-balanced scales.

The PDP and UNC have both cried foul and accused the EBC of favouring the PNM.

A Tobago resident last month also promised to challenge the EBC in court and sent a pre-action protocol letter expressing disagreement with the EBC’s methodology in forming the new seats. The three new electoral districts were birthed from PNM-held seats in Tobago West.

Dennis, whose holdover administration has been in charge since the January election stalemate, said the past nine months have been a challenge.

“It has not been easy leading this island through a pandemic and at the same time, a stalemate arrangement where you have a six-six tie. The requirement to operate with restraint existed, and therefore we simply couldn’t do all the things we hoped to do under this arrangement.”

He added, “Initially, I said I hoped this would have been resolved within six months. There were attempts to resolve it utilising a number of approaches. The possibility of power-sharing was discussed by both parties, but we always said in the PNM that the way to resolve this was to go back to the polls.

The election announcement came two days after the national budget was presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Similar to last election, Tobago’s budgetary allocation is expected to be a hot topic on the election platform as well as the issue of the island’s autonomy.

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On the night of January 25, many were left speechless after they watched the PDP rope in the PNM to make up considerable ground – four more seats – in what ended in an unprecedented tie.

Both parties met several times in February at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough with hopes of electing a presiding officer.But efforts were unsuccessful as both parties failed to budge from their preferred candidates.

Discussions in early March on a power-sharing arrangement fell flat as both parties butted heads over certain provisions.

The PDP said it was willing to give the PNM the positions of Chief Secretary and Presiding Officer, while it would take the portfolios of Deputy Chief Secretary, Secretary of Finance and two out of the three councillors allocated to the executive.

The remaining secretarial positions would be split down the middle.

With the PNM and PDP unable to find a solution, the Prime Minister intervened with the THA (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in Parliament in March, changing the number of THA seats from 12 to 15.

Its proclamation in July triggered action by the EBC to amend the electoral boundaries and pave the way for fresh elections.

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