Trends late last night indicated her entire slate was victorious, but there are already calls from her opponents for fresh elections amid a litany of complaints and irregularities surrounding the voting throughout yesterday.
Persad-Bissessar had already begun amassing votes that put her ahead of her rivals, Dr Roodal Moonilal and Vasant Bharath as results began to circulate.
She thanked her supporters at her Penal constituency office and indicated she was prepared to work with everyone including her opponents to rebuild the UNC.
But Moonilal questioned the integrity of the membership list, described it as “dysfunctional” and wants another vote.
“I believe the party should return to the poll with a proper list that is approved by an independent election committee. Even if I had won my stance would have been the same,” Moonilal said in his concession speech, at about 10 pm, at his constituency office in Debe.
He claimed the membership list had been tampered with, alleging a revised list was distributed at midday at polling stations, and said ballot boxes were being opened before the close of voting at 6 pm in Chaguanas.
“In my constituency more than 2,000 members were denied a chance to vote, even die-hard members were denied a chance to vote.
We got a list that was dysfunctional.
More information coming out of Central were persons seen with what appeared to be ballot papers, the list was doctored and cut with no explanation. It affects the credibility of the party and persons who were victorious,” Moonilal said.
In response to Moonilal, Persad- Bissessar said whatever issues he has he will have to take it up with the elections committee.
“But I believe it is a resounding whipping and therefore if it was very close you could say there were issues but it’s a very clear victory I think. He can take up his issues with the election committee,” she said last night.
She told the gathering at 11 pm that though all the results were not in, “I think we will go forward to a clear victory.” “At the end of the day the victory is for the UNC and to them I say thank you,” she said.
She stressed they are one UNC party and asked all opposing teams to work together to “fight the real enemy which is the PNM”.
Earlier, Dr Tim Gopeesingh of Moonilal’s Team Loyalist slate who was contesting the post of chairman listed five major issues which he suggested rendered yesterday’s elections far from being free and fair.
These were: vanishing ink identifying people who would have already voted but which was disappearing from fingers of voters following two or three washings; names of would-be voters appearing two or three times on the election lists, with changes reportedly being made during yesterday in at least two constituencies; people who were part of campaigns being named as presiding officers when those positions should be independent and non-partisan, and thousands of persons going to a particular area where they were accustomed voting only to find that they had to be redirected several miles away to new allotted locations to vote.
“We went into the elections with the conviction that we wanted to have a free and fair election,” Gopeesingh said. “If during the conduct of the elections a number of issues have arisen which would put a lie to that, then there is necessity for serious concern with the conduct of the election, and if there is serious concern and there are glaring examples of things that went wrong then we will have to discuss that.” The litany of woes led Moonilal to describe the process as a scandal of the highest order. Claiming that the voters’ list was “trashed, cut and pasted.” The Oropouche East Member of Parliament said that as early as 10 am yesterday he began receiving complaints from supporters who were turned away from different polling stations across the country.
“These hundreds of voters were turned away in Couva, St Joseph, Orpouche East, San Juan and others,” Moonilal complained. “It is very frustrating because a lot of persons who would have voted in then UNC elections in 2010 and 2012 came to find out there names are not on the list.” Moonilal said he hoped those errors do not frustrate the elections results.
“I really want to have a leadership of the party that reflects the membership, and if it is that more people are denied voting then that calls into question the legitimacy, integrity and moral position of the party as it relates to leadership,” Moonilal said.
After voting at the Aranguez North Secondary School in San Juan, Bharath noted the elections list had been a concern of his because the time frame to check the entire list of eligible voters was very short.
He also said the electoral list was not readily available as party members had to go to Rienzi Complex in Couva to see if their names were included, and not many were able to do so. Bharath said even his father, an original member of the party when it was formed in 1995, was not able to find his name on the list.
“Therein lies a major flaw in our system,” Bharath said. “At the end of the day, anybody has the opportunity to go to the EBC (Elections and Boundaries Commission) and check to see whether they are listed to vote in a national election. Lists are available. They are pinned up in corner shops and so on in the constituencies. This time around we did not have that opportunity.
Those are the kinds of things we are seeking to change when we get into office.
Commenting on the reports that some voters were turned away because their names were not on the list, Persad-Bissessar suggested it was nothing to worry about, and that some voters believed that because they are on the voters’ list of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), they are automatically on the UNC membership voters’ list.
She affirmed that this is not so, and that one must be registered on the UNC membership list in order to vote in the internal elections Moonilal, as well as Bharath, also raised concerns about the quality of ink used as he demonstrated how easy it was to wash off.
“The ink has also disappeared from my finger in five minutes from voting,” Moonilal said adding that persons who may be up to no good could use the opportunity to vote more than once.
But Persad-Bissessar, had no problems with the quality of the ink, also demonstrating by using a wipe to nullify the complaints.
There were also reports of a physical sparring at Parvati Girls’ Hindu College between two men, said to be supporters of Moonilal and Persad- Bissessar’s slates respectively, but this was quickly quelled, giving way to the litany of complaints that surrounded the voting exercise, as well as a bomb scare at Shiva Boys Hindu College.
When contacted chief elections officer Dr Rampersad Parasram admitted he was aware of the complaints and these were being investigated.
Parasram said the ink was the same brand that had been supplied to the EBC for this year’s General Elections. Last night, he said early data had Persad-Bissessar in the lead.