T&T will go to the polls to elect a new Government in 38 days, on Monday May 24, 2010. This, as Prime Minister Patrick Manning's office issued a two-paragraph release announcing the election date shortly after noon yesterday. It is being held more than two years earlier than it was constitutionally due in 2012. The last time Manning called an early election, in 1995, the PNM lost the Government to the United National Congress, then led by Basdeo Panday. Yesterday's announcement ended widespread speculation about, and increasing calls for, the 2010 election date. "Prime Minister Patrick Manning today advised President George Maxwell Richards to issue a writ of election, appointing Monday 24, May 2010 as the date of the general election. Nomination Day is Monday 3, May 2010," the release said. It added: "On April 8, 2010, Patrick Manning, Prime Minister, advised His Excellency George Maxwell Richards, President, to dissolve Parliament in accordance with Section 68 of the Constitution."
On previous occasions the election date was announced in Parliament, a post-Cabinet news conference or at a party forum. It was an unprecedented development, as sources said it was the first time in the T&T's history an election date was announced more than a week after the Parliament was dissolved. Many were expecting Manning (as he did in previous years) to pull the date out of his back pocket. Manning's PNM won 26 of the 41 seats in the last general election on November 5, 2007. The United National Congress (UNC), under former leader Basdeo Panday, won the remaining 15 seats. Manning said earlier in the week he decided to keep the date to himself because in 1995 when a date for the then snap election was decided, it was leaked to UNC officials. Manning said that breach resulted in the UNC being better prepared. Meanwhile, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which is charged with the conduct of the polls, said it was ready for the election.
Chief Elections Officer Howard Cayenne said more than one million citizens have been registered to vote. He said the period of voter registration runs until next Tuesday. The EBC issued a release shortly after the election date was announced calling for people interested in working for the election to apply. It said it wanted presiding officers, deputy presiding officers, poll clerks and information officers. The EBC said successful applicants would be employed on the basis of satisfactory attendance and successful completion of the training programme. Manning previously said he called the early polls to avert a move by Persad-Bissessar to debate in Parliament last week Friday a motion of no confidence in him. Manning said he was informed that many slanderous remarks were expected to be made under the cloak of parliamentary privilege.