General Elections were held in Trinidad and Tobago on 10 December 2001 for all 36 seats in the House of Representatives following premature dissolution of this body on 13 October 2001. Elections had previously taken place in December 2000.
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.
On 10 October 2001, Prime Minister Basdeo Panday announced that he had asked President Arthur Robinson to dissolve the legislature in preparation for the holding of an early general election on 10 December 2001, exactly one year after the last general election. Panday's United National Congress (UNC) had won that general election, capturing 19 of the seats in the 36-member House of Representatives. However he was obliged to call elections when, in early October 2001, three UNC ministers voted against their government's bills in the House of Representatives, thereby causing a legislative crisis.
Political Parties & Candidates
A total of 110 candidates from five political parties contested the 2001 election.
During the electoral campaign, the opposition Leader, Mr Patrick Manning, pledged more money for senior citizens, settlement of all arrears to public servants and a one-month salary advance and reduction in taxes in the first 100 days if his party won the elections. The ruling party promised free textbooks to all primary school students and an annual monetary grant for secondary students if it was re-elected to office.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) observer team declared that the elections had been free and fair, but expressed concern about the omissions on the voters' list which had prevented many people from casting their ballots. In January 2002 the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), explained that electors whose names had been removed from the list had been advised to go to the EBC head Office to have their registration regularised, but aproximately 500 persons did not. As a result none of these persons were eligible to vote.
The incumbent United National Congress (UNC) and the opposition People's National Movement (PNM) each won 18 seats after the general election, posing a constitutional debate about which party should form the government. Opposition leader Patrick Manning rejected a proposal from Prime Minister Basdeo Panday to share power in a government of national unity to break the deadlock. Both met with President Arthur Robinson, and agreed, as provided under the Constitution, to authorise him to appoint a new Prime Minister.
On 19 December 2001, the two political parties agreed on a new Speaker of the House, Max Richards, the retired Principal of the University of the West Indies campus. Subsequent to that agreement on the choice of Speaker, the UNC declared that Mr Richards had appeared on a PNM platform in the previous 2000 elections as a PNM supporter and decided to reject Mr Richards as a possible candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On 24 December 2001, President Robinson chose Manning to be the next Prime Minister and he was sworn in the same day. Two days later, the opposition UNC pulled out of the political pact that had resolved the elections tie, threatening the Parliament's ability to pass any legislation since the UNC refused to allow a new 7th Parliament to be convened. The UNC party announced that it would no longer honour the agreement Mr Panday had struck with the Prime Minister and called for new elections. To date the two political leaders have not agreed on a viable date for new elections.
Voter turnout was 68.36%.