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Ahead of yesterday’s deadline for nomination for the highest public office in the country, the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) of Prime Minister Patrick Manning named a former Principal of the University of the West Indies.
And Opposition Leader of the United National Congress, Basdeo Panday, submitted an ex-President of the Senate as his party’s choice.
Election for the nominees - retired UWI Principal, Max Richards, and Ganace Ramdial, who often acted as President in his then capacity as head of the Senate - is to take place, possibly next week Friday at a meeting of the Electoral College.
The College is comprised of both the elected House of Representatives and the nominated Senate and a choice is made on the basis of a simple majority. It is, therefore, widely believed that Richards, a long standing supporter of the PNM and close ally of Manning, would emerge as the country’s new President.
At the time of the submission of the nomination papers on Tuesday to Speaker of the House, Barry Sinanan, who will preside over the Electoral College, all 16 MPs of the opposition UNC had signed in favour of Ramdial.
But surprise has been expressed over the disclosure that only 14 of the 20 PNM parliamentarians had signed on for Richards when his name was submitted to the Speaker, according to a report in yesterday’s “Express”.
Prime Minister Manning had over a week ago promised to meet with Opposition Leader Panday for consultation on the choice of a successor to outgoing President Arthur Robinson who demits office next month.
But he changed his mind and opted instead to telephone Panday on Tuesday to tell him that Richards was the PNM’s choice.
Panday then forwarded to the Speaker the name of Ramdial as his party’s nominee, and so dismissed any hope of a bi-partisan, consensual approach in the election of a new non-executive Head of State.
Manning had indicated four potential PNM nominees for the post of President - Richards, Justice Jean Permanand, Uric Bobb, former Central Bank Governor now with the Inter-American Development Bank, and media entrepreneur, Ken Gordon, soon to retire as head of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN).
The UNC leader and former Prime Minister had publicly stated last month its preparedness to meet with Manning for consultation on the election of a new President and indicated that if a nominee of the PNM’s leader was acceptable, his party would not nominate a candidate.
Trinidad and Tobago, however, now seems set for a replay of what happened six years ago when a then governing UNC under Panday’s leadership had nominated Robinson for the presidency, while Manning, as Opposition Leader, had submitted
then High Court judge, Anthony Lucky, as his party’s candidate.
Lucky, currently an Appeals Court judge, was overwhelmingly defeated by Robinson.
Sharp political differences subsequently became a feature in relations between Robinson as President and Panday during his terms as Prime Minister between 1995 and 2001, and worsened when Robinson chose Manning as Prime Minister on Christmas eve 2001 in the face of an 18-18 seat UNC-PNM deadlock.
Robinson has been on an extended one-year term as President. This expires next month.
The UNC was planning a media briefing yesterday to discuss its potential nominees in addition to that of Ramdial.