The red, green and yellow political curtains came down yesterday, bringing an end to weeks of intense and at times acrimonious campaigning, as the three main political parties battled for the 2013 local government elections tomorrow.
One million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and twenty-one people are registered to vote in tomorrow’s elections, Chief Elections Officer Ramesh Nanan confirmed yesterday to the Sunday Express.
In 2010, the voters’ list was 998,787.
For the past two and a half months, the People’s National Movement (PNM), People’s Partnership comprising the United National Congress (UNC), Congress of the People and National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) have been heating up the campaign trail throughout the country, hoping to bring home the 14 regional corporations under their control.
At times the fight turned bitter between the ILP and the UNC, with both sides “bussing marks” against each other, among them allegations of corruption.
Interim leader of the ILP Jack Warner, a former Cabinet minister and close confidant of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, wasted no opportunity in casting aspersions against the ruling party and the “cabal” which he said has hijacked the UNC.
Warner entered the local government elections fuelled by a resounding victory in the Chaguanas West by-election on July 29.
PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley is also riding confidently, following a 12-nil victory over the coalition in the January 2013 Tobago House of Assembly elections.
Following both defeats, the PP coalition is hoping to regain some control over the electorate in tomorrow’s elections.
By midnight tomorrow, the wait will be over.
Meanwhile, checks with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) yesterday indicated the commission was putting the final preparations in place to ensure a smooth election day tomorrow.
Nanan told the Sunday Express while most of the preparations were completed, the EBC was working on ensuring the differently abled could cast their votes comfortably.
“For example, there are schools which we are using for polling stations that do not have facilities for the physically challenged. But as you would understand, we could not have done anything during school days so we are now in the final phases of supplying furniture to those stations.”
There are 136 electoral districts and 2,080 polling stations throughout the country, Nanan said.
Immediately following the July 29 Chaguanas West by-election, the EBC preparations went into high gear for the local elections, and activities will continue until the November 4 by-election for the St Joseph constituency.
Yesterday Nanan also reminded voters that admission to the polling stations was restricted to just a handful of people, including the candidates and their elections agents.
A press advertisement from the EBC yesterday stipulated that the media are not allowed into the restricted 300-yard limit of the polling stations.
The ad stated that those allowed include the polling agents of the respective polling stations, police officers on duty, companions of physically incapacitated, the Chief Election Officer, a registration supervisor, the returning officer, the election clerk, the deputy presiding officer and the poll clerks.
It added, contrary to what is mistakenly claimed in some quarters as an unrestricted right to enter polling stations on polling day, the legal position is members of the media do not have such a right, nor does any person who is outside the exceptions specified.
The EBC’s ad explained that the clear object of the rule is to ensure free, fair and orderly elections, and appealed to all citizens to co-operate with the efforts of the presiding officer to ensure that the law is duly observed.
Nanan urged all registered voters to do their “civic duty, and to also follow the instructions of presiding office at respective polling stations when going to vote”.
He also cautioned about the prohibition of cellphones and electronic devices in polling stations and advised electors to place such items in a receptacle before going to vote and retrieve them on the way out.
Nanan reiterated there should be no campaigning and no assembling of people within the 300-yard limit of the polling stations.
He said the EBC met with the police on October 4 to discuss security arrangements on polling day and had subsequently held several briefings.