Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Trinidad and Tobago General Elections

Q: What is the law regarding the date of general elections in Trinidad and Tobago?


A: According to our Constitution, a normal Parliamentary term is 5 years.
68. (1) The President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, may at any time prorogue or dissolve Parliament.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), Parliament, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date of its first sitting after any dissolution, and shall then stand dissolved.

Section 68(3) allows the President to extend the term by 12-month periods for up to 5 years in times of war.

This Parliament’s first sitting was on Friday June 18, 2010 at 1:30pm. Therefore, the 5 years will end on Wednesday June 17. However, the general elections can be called at any time within three months of the dissolution of Parliament:

69. (1) A general election of members of the House of Representatives shall be held at such time within three months after every dissolution of Parliament as the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, shall appoint.

History of elections:
The People of Trinidad and Tobago voted for the first time in what could be designated a general election on Saturday 7th February, 1925.
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Over the decades, Trinidad & Tobago was to go through several constitutional (political) developments, until the P.N.M’s coming into office in 1956. Between 1925 and 1956, there were several General Elections held: 1928, 1933, 1938, 1946 and 1950. There was supposed to have been General Elections in 1943, but it was suspended until after the War, which resulted in the General Elections of 1946.

During this period (1925 to 1950), adult franchise was granted for the 1946 General Elections, with the age of majority then being 21 years of age in order to vote. This was to be further reduced to 18 years of age with the Republican Constitution of 1976.

In the meantime, the General Elections for 1955 were constitutionally due by September, 1955. However, the Constitution Reform Committee, had by Majority Report, recommended postponement.  This postponement, with an election date to be set, had to be set officially by the Colonial Office, in London, which subsequently directed the Governor that the term of the Legislative Council be extended to for an eight-month period, operating up to the 26th May, 1956.  This meant that with the minimum four-month period for holding elections after the dissolution of the Legislative Council, would mean that elections would be held on the 26th of September, 1956.  However, because that date would occur on a mid-week day, Wednesday, and since Monday is always more convenient for elections, the date for Election Day shifted to the start of the working week of Monday the 24th of September, 1956.

Since then, the following are the dates of general elections:
1961 - General elections were held on 4 December. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 20 of the 30 seats.

1966 - General elections were held on 7 November. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 24 of the 36 seats.

1971 - General elections were held on 24 May. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won all 36 seats.

1976 - General elections were held on 13 September. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 24 of the 36 seats. 

1981 - General elections were held on 9 November. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 26 of the 36 seats

1986 - General elections were held on 15 December. The result was a victory for the NAR, which won 33 of the 36 seats.

1991 - General elections were held on 16 December. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 21 of the 36 seats

1995 - Early general elections were held on 6 November after the ruling PNM had seen its majority reduced to a single seat due to a defection and a lost by-election. The results saw the PNM and the UNC both won 17 seats. Although they had received fewer votes, the UNC was able to form a coalition with the two-seat National Alliance for Reconstruction, allowing UNC leader, Basdeo Panday, to become the country's first Indo-Trinidadian Prime Minister.
2000 - General elections were held on 11 December. The result was a victory for the UNC, which won 19 of the 36 seats. 

2001 - Early general elections were held on 10 December, after the ruling UNC lost its majority in the House of Representatives following four defections. However, the election results saw the UNC and the PNM both win 18 seats. Although the UNC received the most votes, President A. N. R. Robinson nominated PNM leader Patrick Manning as Prime Minister.

2002 - Early general elections were held in Trinidad and Tobago on 7 October, after PNM leader, Patrick Manning, had failed to secure a majority in the hung parliament produced by the 2001 elections. This time the PNM was able to secure a majority, winning 20 of the 36 seats.

2007 - General elections were held on 5 November. The PNM party under the leadership of Patrick Manning won 26 of the 41 seats in Parliament. The UNC-A, under the leadership of Basdeo Panday won the 15 remaining seats. The COP did not win any seats

2010 - A general election was held on May 24. The date of the general elections was announced by Prime Minister Patrick Manning on April 16, 2010, via a press release. The election was called over two years earlier than required by law. Polls showing that the UNC-led opposition coalition was likely to win the election were confirmed by the subsequent results.
The final outcome has the People's Partnership winning 29 seats, and the PNM winning 12 seats. As a consequence of the People's Partnership's win, Kamla Persad-Bissessar of the People's Partnership coalition was elected Trinidad and Tobago's first female Prime Minister.

2015 – General elections were held on 7 September. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 23 of the 41 seats.


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