PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The main opposition United National Congress (UNC) Tuesday hinted that the absence of international observers had contributed to its defeat in Monday’s general election and that it would be making its position known on several irregularities “in due course” to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley last night announced that his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) had won 22 of the 41 seats in the elections with the remainder going to the UNC, thereby securing a second consecutive term in office.
“So far as the results are in…but it appears that we went in with 23 seats and we would come out with 22, a majority is 21, thank you, thank you for that support,” he said.
“Early on in the election cycle, the United National Congress raised the issue of election observers. We raised that election observers are necessary in a democracy to protect free fair elections…and that people could have full confidence in what takes place on elections day,” the UNC public relations officer, Anita Haynes, told a news conference
“We went into the polls with no election observers. Subsequent to that we placed in each of our constituencies legal teams. The purpose of those legal teams would be to gather information again in the absence of electoral observers, so that where there would have been discrepancies we could make note of them and have a clear record.
“We have noted discrepancies in several areas and I know the question would be to give details on those but I will not tell you right now until we clear the irregularities with the EBC,” Haynes said, adding “we will share the letter with the EBC first and then we will share it with the press.
“But as it stands right now, the United National Congress is awaiting the results of recounts in five key marginal seats and until we get those we have not conceded the elections 2020,” she added
EBC Communications Manager, Bobbi Rogers, confirmed that the UNC, had requested “general recounts” in St. Joseph, Tunapuna, Toco/Sangre Grande, La Horquetta/Talparo and San Fernando West.
This is the second consecutive general election that attorney general Faris Al Rawi, who won the San Fernando seat has found that his victory is being challenged by the UNC.
The leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), Watson Duke has requested a recount in the Tobago East seat he lost to the PNM’s Ayanna Webster-Roy.
The recount was due to begin 3.00 pm (local time) but EBC officials say they expect that given it is a “general” recount, the exercise could take a few days to be completed.
However, PNM campaign manager Rohan Sinanan, said that he is not perturbed at the requests for the recount and has viewed them as a delaying tactic.
“I would not take that recount so serious …because I mean I don’t know of any recount that has been successful maybe with a margin of perhaps 100. Some of these recounts they are calling for we probably won the seats in excess of 3,000 votes.
“I know what will happen in the recount, so I wouldn’t waste too much time on it. All the seats were won handsomely and I don’t want to get involved in the internal politics of other parties but what I think it is, it is to delay the inevitable,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley had said that invitations had been sent to the Commonwealth the 15-member Caribbean Community (ICARICOM) grouping to send observers but that they would have had to arrive here in time to be undergo the 14-day quarantine period.
He said that the regional and international observers had indicated that the venture would be too expensive and that his administration had decided against providing assistance for fear of it being regarded as trying to influence the observers in their duties.
Haynes insisted that the party had noted irregularities “across all seats” and that the recount exists in the system here for a reason “and we are going to utilise them.
“We want to put it also very clearly in the space of the absence of electoral observers, we do not want that conversation to get lost at all. We requested election observers, we want the irregularities to be understood in the space where no independent observers,” said Haynes, flanked by senior party members.
“We are going to approach the EBC with the list of irregularities which will be shared with you in due course, our legal teams are in the process of compiling our data, we are not going to mount this in a piecemeal fashion, you get one thing today, and a next thing tomorrow.
“You will get the total list of irregularities when we have it. They will be backed up by the information coming from our polling station…diaries, our legal teams in each constituency, we are going about this in a very deliberate manner because we understood…that we had to be very careful, very deliberate, very careful in the context of having no election observers,” Haynes said.