General Elections were held in Trinidad and Tobago on 7 October 2002 for all 36 seats in the House of Representatives following premature dissolution of this body in August 2002. Elections had previously taken place in December 2001.
The 36 members of the House of Representatives are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting. There is no fixed election date in effect in Trinidad and at this time; hence, the choice of election date is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
Voters went to the polls on 7 October 2002 in the third general elections in less than two years. The parliamentary elections were called in an attempt to end a political deadlock arising from a tie in previous polls in December 2001, when the two main parties, the People's National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC) each won 18 seats in the 36-seat Parliament.
Faced with this impasse, the leaders of the two parties, Patrick Manning (PNM) and Basdeo Panday (UNC), agreed to let the President of the country appoint a Prime Minister, as stipulated in the Constitution. He did so and appointed Manning. When the Parliament convened, it failed twice to elect a Speaker, creating a new political deadlock. Without a parliamentary majority and without a Speaker to settle parliamentary decisions, the Prime Minister was unable to adopt a new budget, as the previous one was due to expire at the end of September 2002, and thus had to set a date for new elections.
Political Parties & Candidates
A total of 101 candidates and five political parties contested the election. This included two independent candidates.
The electoral campaign was a bitter one, with Mr Manning and Mr Panday, himself a former Prime Minister, trading insults and accusations. Both the PNM and the UNC also spoke of the need for a constitutional reform, emphasizing that in order to take such a step, the Government had to have at least 24 seats in Parliament.
On polling day, security was tightened in the districts where the races were expected to be close and either party could win the parliamentary seats at stake. Nevertheless, there were no reports of serious violence.
The ruling PNM won 20 of the 36 parliamentary seats at stake, with the opposition UNC picking up the remaining 16 seats.
On 9 October 2002, Patrick Manning was sworn in as the new Prime Minister.
On 17 October 2002, Barendra Sinanan was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and Ms Linda Baboolal re-elected President of the Senate.
In the aftermath of the elction, Manning increased the number of parliamentary seats from 36 to 41 in order to prevent any future ties.
Voter turnout was 69.64%.