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Popular vote was ours

The trinidad Guardian / The ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) yesterday claimed victory in the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, which ended in a 4-4 tie with the United National Congress following Monday’s Local Government elections.

PNM chairman Franklin Khan made the claim during a hastily-arranged news briefing at the party’s Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, headquarters.

He said the clauses to deal with a deadlock were removed by the former People’s Partnership government ten days before the 2013 Local Government elections, when it provided for a system of proportional representation in the elections. As a consequence of this, Khan said, there was now no provision in the existing law to resolve the deadlock in Sangre Grande.

Khan, a former Local Government minister, said the existing situation meant that both parties are entitled to two aldermen each and that would effectively create a 6-6 deadlock.

He suggested that because the spirit of the law allows for proportional representation, “the popular vote should have a say in who runs the corporation.”

He confirmed that the PNM got about 500 more votes in Sangre Grande than the UNC, and suggested that the PNM should be allowed to run the corporation because “we have the value of incumbency.”

Khan explained that while under the existing legislation the respective councils are dissolved when an election is called, the chairmen and mayors remain in office until a new one is sworn in. He said as such, Martin Terry Rondon was still the chairman of the corporation and insisted the PNM’s position was that “it will be irresponsible of us as a party to drop that position of Rondon being chairman.

“We are declaring a victory at the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation based on the fact that we have the popular vote and we have the incumbency of Terry Rondon,” Khan said, noting the PNM received 10,399 to the UNC’s 9,959 votes.

According to Khan, Rondon will continue as the chairman until a new one is elected, adding that based on that proposal, the people of Sangre Grande will have a council that will be chaired by Rondon.

In response to a question, Khan said once the council cannot elect a chairman, the incumbent would remain in place. He said the chairman had an original and casting vote under the existing law.

Asked if the PNM was prepared for a legal challenge to its proposal, he said the party had sought legal advice and was prepared for it. Attorney Michael Quamina sat in on the conference.

Khan also said a crossing of the floor “was always a possibility” to resolve a deadlock, but was not prepared to comment on the possibility of a PNM member going to the UNC to give it the majority. The President, Khan added, also had no role in resolving this matter, as there are no provisions for the President to get involved as Local Government was not enshrined in the Constitution.

MISLEADING, SAYS KAMLA

In a strongly-worded statement last night, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the PNM’s claim of victory in Sangre Grande was “reckless and dangerous.”

She said it was “misleading, arrogant and incredible” for the Government to make such a claim, which was based on a “nonsensical legal interpretation” on the issue of incumbency.

She said the UNC “clearly recorded victory in four seats in the Sangre Grande Corporation,” adding that there were no recounts in those electoral districts of the region.

Persad-Bissessar said the EBC is still to recount voting in two districts claimed by the PNM.

The former prime minister said the law “makes clear provision for the manner in which the corporation chairman is to be elected” and insisted the PNM was being “deliberately arrogant, ignorant and willfully deceptive.”

UNC deputy political leader Khadijah Ameen also said claiming victory was premature, as the PNM should await the EBC announcement of the final vote count and official result before seeking to claim the region.

Ameen said, however, that Khan’s claim was part of a plan to defend “the ground that the PNM lost in Monday’s poll.”

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