incoming man: Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona

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10 minutes to elect President

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

BY tomorrow, Justice Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona will be the President-elect, the incoming man.

And the incumbent George Maxwell Richards will be officially on his way out — on the road to becoming the outgoing man.

It should take less than ten minutes for the Electoral College to elect Justice Carmona to become President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago when it meets at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Immediately upon his election, Carmona will receive 24-hour security in preparation for his accession as the nation's highest office-holder.

The election procedure is quite simple, because there is only one candidate for the position of President.

All members of the Electoral College- which consists of all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate —will convene, sitting together in a manner similar to the opening of Parliament.

The Speaker, who is chairman of the college, will inform the members of the purpose of their meeting — that the term of the President is due to end and, in accordance with the Constitution, the college has to elect a President by February 17. (Richards's term of office expires on March 17).

The Speaker will announce that the call for nominations yielded only one nominee and therefore there is no need for a ballot.

The Speaker traditionally refers to the nomination paper and details of the nomination which would include the person who agreed to be nominated and the 12 elected members who signed in support of the nomination.

The rules by which the college operates state that only elected members can nominate a person to become President. Senators are allowed to vote, but not to nominate.

The rules also state that in circumstances where there is only one nominee, the Speaker must declare the sole nominee to be the elected President of Trinidad and Tobago.

The college is expected to adjourn after congratulatory remarks are made. It is not normal for the nominee to be present inside the Chamber.

The re-election of George Maxwell Richards lasted seven minutes in 2008.

Richards was first elected in 2003, making history to become the first person without legal training to become President. Previous presidents were Sir Ellis Clarke, a former chief justice; Noor Hassanali, a former Appeal Court judge, and Arthur NR Robinson, an attorney (though, from a public perspective, Robinson's political personality overshadowed his legal persona). Carmona fits into this traditional mould.

One interesting detail is that the chairman of the Electoral College, Wade Mark, was at one time tipped to become the presidential nominee.

Tomorrow, however, he would preside as chairman over Carmona's election.

His nomination receives the support of the Opposition People's National Movement MPs.

And, from all appearances, the entire nation would breathe a collective sigh of relief when the election of this incoming President is confirmed tomorrow.

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