PORT OF SPAIN: Voters go to the polls in general elections in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday as the ruling party and the opposition face a too-close-to-call race for control of the Caribbean country's 41-seat parliament.
Tracking polls published in local newspapers predict that victory will go to the party that wins a handful of closely contested constituencies in the oil-rich twin-island nation.
Just over one million people are eligible to cast votes for candidates contesting the seats – 39 in Trinidad and 2 in Tobago.
The two main groups contesting the elections are the ruling coalition led prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the United National Congress (UNC) and the People’s National Movement (PNM), the country’s oldest political organization, which has had several terms in government.
A fringe party, the Independent Liberal Party, is led by disgraced ex-FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner, who is facing extradition to the United States on a dozen corruption charges.
Warner is also a candidate in the Chaguanas East seat in the Central region.
Political scientist Bishnu Ragoonath said polls show about 10 or 11 constituencies with no clear majority support for either of the two dominant political parties.
The campaign has centered around a range of issues, from social policies to accusations of government corruption, including contracts to businesses linked to the UNC’s election campaign.
The campaign has barely touched on management of the economy even though the winning party will face the challenge of managing a budget with lower oil prices.
“The next government which gets into office after next Monday has to produce a budget 50 days later, and they will be challenged to work with a budget that is pegged to low oil prices,” said Ragoonath.
The Trinidad and Tobago economy is largely dependent on oil and gas revenues for its foreign exchange.