PNM opens nominations for eight seats for next general election

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PNM deputy political leader Colm Imbert, left, with the party’s chairman Stuart Young and general secretary Foster Cummings at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando on June 22. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE PNM has opened nominations for candidates to contest eight constituencies in the next general election, all of which are held by the opposition and some are considered key marginals.

The announcement was made at a press briefing at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts, San Fernando on June 21 after the party’s general council meeting.

PNM general secretary Foster Cummings said in the upcoming week the party will begin accepting nominations for Mayaro, St Augustine, Chaguanas East, Fyzabad, Pointe-a-Pierre, San Juan/Barataria, Moruga/Tableland and Caroni East.

Asked about screening for the other 33 constituencies, Cummings said: “We’re doing screening on a phased basis. This is the first batch of constituencies that have been invited.”

He said the screening will take place at the party’s headquarters, Balisier House, Port of Spain.

“We look for high-quality candidates, persons who are committed to serving their country and their community, and we have a process that has stood the test of time.

“Party groups are invited to make nominations. Every party group can nominate one candidate, the youth league and the women’s league can also do so.

“It’s a very open process and it’s also open to all law-abiding, hardworking citizens who would be prepared to support the principles of the PNM and who will be prepared to represent their constituency and their country.”

The party’s chairman, Stuart Young, said a date has not been set for the general election.

“The PNM is a very strategic party with a lot of history, with an exceptional leader and a good leadership team around him. So what we’ve taken today is a decision on a phased basis, as you’ve heard our general secretary say, on a rolling basis, to begin our nomination process and stand by as it continues, and it would go along in a very structured manner, organised manner, as you always see happening with the PNM.”

San Juan/Barataria was won by the UNC’s Saddam Hosein in 2020 over the PNM’s Jason Williams with a margin of just 1,060 votes. Similarly, the seat was won by UNC’s Fuad Khan over PNM’s Hafeez Ali in 2015 with a margin of just 540 votes. It also went to the UNC-led People’s Partnership in 2010.

The seat, however, was previously held by PNM’s Joseph Ross over the UNC’s Nazeemool Mohammed by 1,817 votes in 2007.

Chaguanas East was won by the UNC’s Vandana Mohit in 2020 over the PNM’s Clarence Rambharat with a margin of 1,086 votes. There was a similar margin in 2015 with UNC’s Fazal Karim winning the seat by 1,424 votes over PNM’s Parbatee Maharaj. The seat was, however, won in 2007 by PNM’s Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, who triumphed over UNC’s Kirk Meighoo by 1,764 votes.

Although Fyzabad has been customarily held by the UNC, it was almost lost in the 2007 election as PNM’s Andre Bernard lost by just 361 votes to Chandresh Sharma.

Moruga/Tableland was won by UNC’s Michelle Benjamin in 2020 over PNM’s Winston “Gypsy” Peters by a margin of 1,072 votes. The seat was previously won by PNM’s Lovell Francis in 2015 over UNC incumbent Clifton De Coteau by just 533 votes.

In 2007, then UNC’s Peters took Mayaro over PNM’s Michelle Misher-Boyd by 476 votes. He held the seat for the UNC until Rushton Paray took control of the constituency for the party, keeping the seat until now. While the UNC has been able to increase its hold of the constituency since 2007, its current MP has fallen out of favour with the party after he challenged its leader over the failure to call internal party elections. Paray’s slate was defeated on June 15.

Asked if Paray would be welcomed by the PNM, Cummings said: “We’ll see what the nominations produce.”

The other seats the PNM is currently seeking nominations for have been customarily held by the opposition UNC with margins of at least 3,000 votes.