PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – More than 1.1 million people are eligible to cast ballots on Monday as Trinidad and Tobago elect a new government to administer the affairs of the oil-rich twin-island republic for the next five years.
While 19 political parties and 146 candidates are contesting the election, political observers say the poll is a straight fight between the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) for control of the 41 seat parliament.
In the 2015 general election, the PNM won 23 of the seats with the remainder going to the UNC and the Congress of the People (COP), the latter being part of the then People’s Partnership government in which the UNC was the major player.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) said that 1,134, 136 people are eligible to cast ballots at the estimated 2, 200 polling stations, that opened at 6.00 am (local time) and will close 12 hours later.
Among the candidates is the disgraced former FIFA Vice President Austin jack Warner, who is awaiting extradition to the United States on several fraud related charges in relation to his role as a FIFA official. Warner is contesting a seat along the east west-corridor that is currently held by the PNM.
The campaign had been unusual in that the political parties had to take into consideration the protocols put in place here to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has infected more than 200 and killed eight others in Trinidad and Tobago since the first case was detected in March.
The EBC has also outlined new measures for voters. They must wear masks, acknowledge the six feet social distancing and sanitize before and after entering the polling station.
The weather forecast predicts intermittent showers. In the 2015 general election, the EBC extended the voting period by an hour to accommodate persons that had been affected by heavy rains – a situation that had been deemed illegal by the High Court, but which allowed the victories by the PNM.