Saturday, December 16, 2017

Over 81,000 eligible to vote in PNM poll today

Whether supporting Team Rowley or Team Penny, the membership of the People’s National Movement (PNM) has experienced a resurgence in this historic one-man-one-vote internal election which takes place today.

Many in the party agree this internal election has served as a strong mobilising factor for the party in preparation for next year’s general election.

Today, some 81,800 voters are eligible to elect a political leader, chairman and 13 other people who will comprise the party’s executive. The voters list, which has been perhaps the major source of controversy judging from the complaints emanating from Pennelope Beckles-Robinson’s camp, was prepared in three stages. The preliminary list was available on April 14; the final list, April 30; and the supplemental list (consisting of an additional 500 names) was completed only yesterday. As at last night, the veiled threat of legal action did not materalise and the election is expected to proceed as planned today.

Yesterday, canvassers for the two contending slates were out in the field, using PA systems and other means to encourage people to vote for their slates today. There are, on average, 2,000 voters in each constituency. Interes­tingly, Tobago East and Tobago West (which normally has a comparatively smaller electorate than other constituencies) joins San Fernando East and Point Fortin in having the largest block of PNM voters. Each of these constituencies has over 3,000 voters. However, PNM officials were predicting yesterday the highest turnout may well be in the Tobago constituencies, where the “we boy” factor is significant. 

From 8 a.m. today, all those whose names are on the list can go to the polling stations. Voting ends at 6 p.m. 

There are 41 polling stations, one in each constituency. The voter is required to walk with a photo ID. (This means the PNM party card, which does not carry a photograph of the bearer, does not entitle anyone to vote.)

The voter will be handed a booklet with 15 pages. On each page are the names of the candidates for a particular position.

All Rowley candidates will have the Team Rowley symbol, which is Rowley’s name, with the “l” in Rowley represented by a man standing. Team Penny candidates will have the Team Penny symbol next to their name—simply the words “Team Penny”. Each independent candidate will have his personal symbol next to his name.

The order on each page is the Team Rowley candidate on top, the Team Penny candidate second, followed by the independent candidate where they are contesting. 

For the ballot to be valid, the voter will be required to stamp an “X” next to the candidate of his choice, clearly within the box provided, and not overlapping. 

There is no finger staining after the vote is cast, as occurs in a general election. PNM officials said they did not want their members to run the risk of political victimisation from politically unfriendly employers.

Each polling station will have a presiding officer, a returning officer from the party. Each slate and independent candidates are entitled to have scrutineers at each polling station. The scrutineers are entitled to witness the entire process, including the counting of the votes, which will take place at each polling station before being phoned in to Balisier House, Port of Spain—the party’s headquarters. The Election Supervisory Committee will tabulate the total number for each candidate at Balisier House.

A victory for Beckles-Robinson would represent a major change. The results of the two previous leadership contest suggest the culture of the party has been to unite around its leader and to endorse the person who holds the constitutional title (of either Prime Minister or Opposition Leader).

Added to this advantage of incumbency, Rowley has under his belt a succession of electoral victories, starting with the THA historic clean sweep, followed by the local government and the St Joseph by-election (interrupted only by the Chaguanas West election).