THE Prime Minister laid the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) (Tobago) Order 2021 in the House of Representatives on Friday, proposing three additional, reconfigured electoral districts to break the six-six deadlock between the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in the THA. The order will be debated in the House on Wednesday at 1.30 pm, House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis told MPs.
The reconfigured electoral districts being proposed are Darrel Spring/Whim, Lambeau/Lowlands and Mt St George/Goodwood. Whim currently falls within the Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden electoral district, while Lambeau is part of the Lambeau/Signal Hill constituency.
The proposed districts will be debated in the Parliament next Wednesday.
Mt St George is part of the Bacolet/Mt St George constituency while Goodwood falls within the Goodwood/Belle Garden electoral district.
Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden and Lambeau/Signal Hill are currently held by the PNM while Goodwood/Belle Garden is held by the PDP.
The PNM and PDP each won six seats in the January 25 THA election. It was the first time in the assembly’s 40-year history that the result of a THA election ended in a tie.
Both parties have since been unable to come up with a solution to resolve the deadlock, despite several efforts at power-sharing.
The laying of the report came almost six weeks after the Prime Minister announced that Cabinet had agreed to proclaim the THA Amendment Act to bring about a fresh THA election with 15 seats to break the deadlock. It was proclaimed on July 26.
The Act was assented to by President Paula Mae-Weekes on May 16.
At a news conference on July 22, Dr Rowley said once the act is proclaimed, within 90 days, the Elections and Boundaries Commission must produce a report and submit it to the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government for the purpose of creating the 15 electoral districts.
On that occasion, Rowley could not say when the election would have been called, but stated it depended on how quickly the EBC would complete its report.
In the Act, provision is made for the Chief Secretary to fix a date for the election.
It states, “Where the Assembly remains dissolved after a primary election and no assembly is constituted within 14 days of such primary election, the Chief Secretary, after consultation with the President and Prime Minister, shall fix a date of a fresh primary election, which date shall not be earlier than the expiration of two months after the coming into force of an order made under Section 4 of the EBC (Local Government and THA) Act, nor later than the expiration of three months after the coming into force of that Order.”
Commenting briefly on the laying of the EBC report, PNM Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender said he had not seen the document in its entirety.
“I have to make sure I get more information from the report, like what are the polling divisions that comprise those electoral districts before I can make a comprehensive assessment of where we are,” he told Newsday.
Callender said once the report is laid in the Parliament, it sets the stage for a fresh THA election.
Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA) political leader Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus said while there has been a lot of speculation as to where the new seats may fall “there has not been any definitive information yet, if the document is, indeed, being debated on Wednesday.”
She said the IDA welcomes a resolution to Tobago’s current stalemate.
Proposed 15 electoral districts
• Belle Garden/Glamorgan
• Bethel/New Grange
• Bethesda/Les Coteaux
• Bon Accord/Crown Point
• Buccoo/Mt Pleasant
• Darrel Spring/Whim
• Mason Hall/Moriah
• Mt St George/Goodwood
• Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside
• Scarborough/Mt Grace
• Signal Hill/Patience Hill