Deputy Political Leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots, Farley Augustine, who this morning was a guest on Morning Edition stated that “it is irrelevant” when asked about whether Prime Minister Keith Rowley instructed the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to increase the seats from 12 to 15.
Representative Augustine who led the January 25th campaign which ended The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Election for the first time in history, since it was established in 1980 in deadlock, where both parties won 6 seats each, said “ When the tide of public opinion has turned there is very little that can be done to change it.”
He stated that between 2017 and now, the PDP has experienced far superior growth to the PNM, that from 2017 to 2021 the PDP has grown by over 7,000 votes compared to the PNM’s 21 more votes in 2021 than they got in 2017.
When asked how the PDP can compare the growth as it is a relatively new party compared to the established PNM. Representative Augustine said, “ If you look at the history of politics in Tobago, we have had many new parties and they have not always grown the way we have grown.”
“ Additionally, when you assess the fact that when we started this thing we got only two seats, only in deep rural east and at this point we have seats in the west as well, that’s a clear positive sign for us and I contend now as I did before the general election that our confidence is not an idle boast, but it is a realization that more and more Tobagonians are becoming confident in our leadership.”
Augustine further went on to state that the PNM was given an advantage with the three new seats based on voting patterns but no matter what way they cut the seats the PDP was going to fight for the next election regardless as he was confident they would win.
The bill passed yesterday states that if there is a deadlock and after a certain number of days the Chief Secretary is to consult with the Prime Minister and calls for a fresh election in two to three months. He stated ‘now with 15 seats we have moved from the probability of a two-way tie to a three-way tie.’
Representative Augustine had offered many other solutions, one being that they come up with an arrangement for governance to happen if there was a tie saying “ In the US system for example when there is a tie in the senate as there is now, then the Vice president becomes that tiebreaker by becoming the speaker of the house so to speak and so what we had to have done was to come up with a solution to govern even if there is a tie.”
In the debate in the Senate before the bill was passed MP Saddam Hosein protested the bill saying that on September 8th, 2020 the EBC recommended that “ no adjustment is necessary to existing boundaries of the electoral area of Tobago.”
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley denied giving any instructions to the EBC regarding the increase in the number of electoral districts in Tobago from 12 to 15.
Representative Augustine stated that the outcome was predictable and that the PDP has already started its’ soft campaign with a virtual setup for campaign meetings as he expects the next THA elections to happen by the end of this year.
He ended his interview by saying “ We have an election to fight, we are running our own affairs and our own business and quite frankly UNC will do what UNC does, PDP will do what Tobago wants PDP to do full stop.”