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THE HUNT IS ON

Wade Mark tipped to replace Max Richards as President

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Trinidad and Tobago's fifth President will be elected on February 15 and some of the top candidates in the race, according to sources, are House Speaker Wade Mark, former head of British Petroleum (BPTT) Robert Riley and political analyst Dr Hamid Ghany.

Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed, at yesterday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, announced that a meeting of the electoral college will be convened on February 15—three days after Carnival—for the election of a new President to replace George Maxwell Richards.

Sources told the Express that Mark, Riley and Ghany, as well as Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith and Chief Justice Ivor Archie, were being considered.

Contacted by phone, Mark declined comment on the matter but said that he remains in charge under sections 26 to 33 of the Constitution to convene a meeting of the electoral college and preside as chairman.

The Express understands that should Mark be selected, the deputy Speaker of the House will probably preside over the electoral process.

Efforts to contact the other candidates proved futile.

Mohammed outlined the process yesterday, saying that the Constitution provides that there shall be an electoral college for the purpose of the election of a President comprising members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The electoral college, he said, is convened by the House Speaker and its procedure is governed by the electoral college regulation 1976 made under section 28:04 of the Constitution.

He said in accordance with section 26:04 of the Constitution, which provides that an election for President shall be held not more than 60 days nor less than 30 days before the expiration of the term of that office, an election for President must be held no sooner than January 17, 2013 and no later than February 18, 2013.

The Speaker of the House, said Mohammed, is responsible for conducting the elections for President.

An announcement of the date for election must be made by the Speaker in the Gazette not less than 21 days or more than 30 days in advance of the selected date, he added.

In addition, the Speaker is required to inform members by letter of the meeting of the electoral college.

"The Speaker has recommended to the Prime Minister and Cabinet has duly noted that Friday February 15, 2013, is the date selected by the Speaker of the House for the convening of a meeting of the electoral college for the purpose of the election of a President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. In the circumstances and in accordance with section 30 of the Constitution the deadline date for nominations is Tuesday February 5, 2013," said Mohammed.

When questioned, Mohammed said there had not yet been any discussions by Cabinet on nominees.

"I am confident that it will be discussed at the level of the Cabinet, it will be premature of me to suggest any name or names at this time, I know for sure it will be discussed at the Cabinet," he said.

Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas told the Express that Mark is a good candidate, but he would prefer to see a person whom is elected based on consensus between the Government and Opposition.

"Wade is my friend, I would have to answer yes, I think he has conducted himself well as Speaker...I don't know of any scandal attached to him...I would have no problem in principle with Wade," said Dumas.

He said that the system by which the President is elected leads to problems down the road.

Dumas pointed out the electoral college comprises members of the Lower and Upper House--which means that a nominee is elected based on a simple Government majority.

"The Government has chosen the person and the person is expected to do the bidding of the Government.

"You can have a genuinely independent person but he is tagged in his tail and is expected to do the Government's bidding," he added.

Reform of the Constitution, said Dumas, is needed, which will provide a different method for electing a President.

In the absence of constitution reform, Dumas said: "I would like to see a consensus candidate emerge from discussions between the Government and the Opposition rather than a person who is seen as a Government stooge and I don't see why it shouldn't be done between now and February 15.

"I prefer now to see a woman as President, I think we've had enough men...I suspect that my desire will get nowhere at all and it will be another man."

T&T's first president under the Republican constitution was Sir Ellis Clarke, who served from September 24, 1976 to March 19, 1987

He was followed by president Noor Hassanali, who served from March 20, 1987 to March 17, 1997

Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson became this country's third president, serving from March 18, 1997 to March 16, 2003.

Richards is the fourth President who was elected in 2003 and has been serving to date.

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