Leader of the PNM Tobago Council, Kelvin Charles. -
Leader of the PNM Tobago Council, Kelvin Charles. -

As was the case in the last internal election in 2016, the new political leader of the People's National Movement's (PNM's) Tobago Council is to be decided in a runoff between incumbent Kelvin Charles and TT Ambassador to Costa Rica Tracy Davidson-Celestine.

The runoff is scheduled to take place in the next two weeks, Alvin Pascall, chairman of the elections supervisory committee said last evening in an interview with reporters at the party's Scarborough headquarters.

"The rule says that within 30 days of the pronouncement of the poll that a runoff should take place. We intend to do so in two weeks."

At the end of the ballot count for political leader at some 13 polling stations, around 7.30pm on Monday, Charles, who is hoping to secure another four-year term, got 1,513 votes while Davidson-Celestine received 1,447 votes.

But, neither of the candidates secured more than 50 per cent of the votes among the members who voted. An estimated 10,000 members were eligible to vote.

Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Joel Jack, and former Tobago House of Assembly presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus got 1066 and 904 votes, respectively.

The runoff takes place amidst disgruntlement among many of the party's members about the process used in Sunday's election under the one man, one vote system for some 17 executive positions. Some even claimed the delay was part of a plot to rig the election.

There have also been complaints among some members about the absence of electoral ink to signify that party members had voted. This, they felt, created opportunities for voter-padding and other corrupt activities.

Pascall said voters were never required to dip their index fingers in electoral ink for the party's internal election.

At the close of voting at 6pm on Sunday, members arrived at the Tobago Council's uptown, Scarborough office, eager to hear the announcement of the new political leader. But they endured hours of waiting only to be told by Pascall that the counting of ballots would have resumed on Monday.

Asked what mechanisms are being put in place to ensure there is not another lengthy delay in the counting of ballots for the runoff, Pascall said: "It was the first time we have done it to this magnitude. All you have to do is to ensure that the people who would do the counting, that they are efficient and a little more supervision of them, and we should be able to get out of them a more speedy completion of the counting of ballots."

Pascall said shortcomings in the voters' list also will be dealt with by the Tobago Council.

"The voters' list is the purview of the Tobago Council and we hope to deal with any shortcoming in the list that we have found."

Pascall said the ballots were to be counted for the other executive positions on Monday night.

The candidates in the leadership race were at the party's headquarters when the announcement of the runoff was made.

However, they met on Monday with the Prime Minister at his official residence in Blenheim. Newsday was unable to confirm the nature of the discussions.

The candidates are expected to host a joint news conference at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands, on Tuesday at 10 am. PNM general secretary Foster Cummings is expected to attend the news conference.



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