Six months after the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections ended in an unprecedented tie, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has announced that residents of Tobago will have to return to the polls.
This time around, however, there will be 15 seats and not 12 at stake.
At a post-Cabinet news conference here on Thursday, Rowley said Cabinet had approved the proclamation of the Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Act by President Paula-Mae Weekes, which will pave the way for the elections. The Act will be proclaimed next Monday, July 26.
“The EBC [Electoral and Boundaries Commission] is required within 90 days of the Proclamation of The Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment ) Act, to produce a report and submit same to the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government for the purpose of creating 15 electoral districts,” the Prime Minister said, noting that report could be submitted well within the timeline.
He explained the Parliament will be required to approve an order and associated statement laid by the minister to establish the new electoral boundaries for the 15 districts. Rowley said that once approved by the House of Representatives, there is a 60 to 90-day window within which the THA election must be called.
The last THA elections held on January 25 ended in a stalemate – the first in the THA’s 40-year history – with the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) each winning six seats in the 12-seat assembly. The PNM had held 10 of the 12 seats in the last term.
Given the election outcome, the THA is currently not constituted with a chief secretary or presiding officer.
“It would be the chief secretary who normally would initiate the process of dissolving the House. But since there is no new chief secretary subsequent to the last election, the dissolving of the House is now to be done by the provisions of the law that’s going to be passed by Parliament. Provision is made in that amendment to dissolve the House,” Rowley explained.
The date for fresh elections, in which 15 seats will be up for grabs, will be determined through consultation with the President and Prime Minister.
Rowley said the date “cannot be earlier than two months from the making of the Order made by the President for the creation of the 15 seats nor can it be later than three months after the making of the Order”.
Once the date for the polls is fixed, the EBC will commence all its processes under the Elections and Boundaries Act for the holding of the election.