Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tobago may have to vote again if polls tied


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If there is a 6/6 tie or a 5/5/2 result in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election, there would be real trouble. And the Tobago electorate may very well have to go back to the polls.

The THA may not be able to elect either a presiding officer or a chief secretary.

According to the Tobago House of Assembly Act, both officers—presiding officer and the chief secretary, are elected by the 12 assemblymen.

The Act states upon the swearing in of the assemblymen, they shall elect a presiding officer.

The Act states upon the election of the presiding officer, the assemblymen shall elect from among their number the chief secretary and deputy chief secretary.

The person elected (in each case) shall be the candidate receiving the highest number of votes, but where because of an equality of votes the election of a person is impossible, the ballot shall be retaken in respect of the relevant candidates. The votes are done by secret ballot.

The act states that where at the second ballot, the equality of votes continues, the presiding officer shall exercise a casting vote.

If despite the tie, a presiding officer is elected, he would therefore have tremendous power. The issue however is whether in the face of a tie, the two sides would be able to elect a presiding officer.

When the Elections and Boundaries Report on Tobago, which detailed the new boundaries for this THA election, was debated in Parliament late last year, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley suggested the EBC consider creating 13 electoral districts in its next review of the boundaries to avoid the possibility of an electoral tie.

When there was an electoral tie in the general election in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001, the President of the Republic, under the Constitution, had the power to select as prime minister the person whom he felt was best able to command the support of the majority of members of the House of Representatives.

Arthur NR Robinson selected Patrick Manning. But the Parliament was unable to elect a Speaker for the entire life of that administration. The Parliament, therefore, never functioned and Manning called elections after one year.