The trinidad Guardian / The national congress of the United National Congress (UNC) has already voted unanimously for early elections for political leader, but Vasant Bharath, who is challenging Kamla Persad-Bissessar for the position, said he is concerned about issues raised about the legality of the election and is awaiting legal advice on how this will affect his team’s participation in the election.
In a four-page letter to UNC general secretary Dave Tancoo, Bharath, who lost to Persad-Bissessar in the 2015 internal elections by more than 16,000 votes, has put forward demands which he feels will address the “fraud and impropriety” he claims marred those polls.
Among other things, he is asking that a reputable accounting firm be brought in to organise and conduct the election to ensure its independence, transparency and accountability and that the election rules be published in the media. He also wants a list of all members of the UNC who are registered to vote as well as their addresses and phone numbers.
Bharath also wants Tancoo to urgently provide the date by which his team will be provided with the revised list of members. He said this is necessary because of the short time available to campaign and inform members of his team’s position on the organisation and restructuring of the party.
He is also asking for a ommitment that candidates will counter-sign a seal on the ballot boxes to be used in the election, have a representative present when ballot boxes are stored on the night before the election and accompany the boxes when they are transported to polling stations on election day.
Bharath reminded Tancoo of allegations made in 2015 of ballot papers found floating in a river. He wants an assurance that all ballot papers will be properly accounted for by ensuring the stubs are numbered consecutively.
He said last minute changes of voting venues in 2015 led to confusion among voters, so he wants a list of polling stations/venues as soon as possible.
He’s also seeking a commitment that candidates will be given equal access to information and material relevant to the election.
“I trust that you would agree with me that all of the above requests are fair and in the interest of our party, its members, their candidates and the confidence that the national community in general would want to feel in relation to our party and the conduct of its affairs,” Bharath said.
Noting that the elections are being held a a crucial time,” in the country’s history given the state of the economy, crime, unemployment ad indiscipline among some students, Bharath said it is of “utmost importance” that the party be led by a team of “credible, competent, accomplished and committed individuals.”