Barring some dramatic new development, we see no reason to postpone Monday’s general election and therefore fully endorse the position of President Paula-Mae Weekes.
While the recent rash of new infections is cause for worry, the most useful response would be to double down on masking, respect social distancing and keep sanitising.
We continue to be alarmed by persons who simply refuse to take responsibility for their own health and that of their loved ones and others. Given the recklessness and lawlessness among some political campaigners, postponing the election could make things worse by extending the campaign period.
We are pleased to see the United National Congress (UNC) listing mandatory masks among anti-Covid-19 strategies it would adopt if elected to office. However, we encourage the UNC and all other political parties not to wait to get into office to implement the measure. Now is the time for them to mandate their teams, supporters and representatives to wear masks. It is the common sense thing to do. Surely no politician would want to lose votes because their supporters had to be hospitalised or go into quarantine.
We note that the absence of foreign observers is being cited by some as grounds for postponing the election. However, Trinidad and Tobago’s record in conducting elections with or without observers is unblemished. We agree that the Prime Minister waited until too late to invite observers from the Commonwealth and Caricom. At any other time those bodies might have been able to send teams to monitor our elections. However, we are in a global pandemic and there was virtually no chance of the invitation being accepted at such late notice.
That being said, we see no reason for not having confidence in our ability to conduct free and fair elections. Eight months ago, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) conducted Local Government elections with minimal complaint. If the past is anything to go by, we can expect Monday’s election to be busy with queries, complaints and challenges of all kinds from candidates’ representatives and party attorneys. That would be normal. An election is a competition and everyone with a stake in its outcome is entitled to question and challenge the EBC if they believe they have grounds for doing so. The EBC should be ready and prepared to respond with speed and clarity to ensure that there are no hiccups that could cause unnecessary delay in declaring the result.
Ultimately, the successful holding of elections is not the only job of the EBC but of all political interests and institutions such as the Police Service. Our elections have been generally marked by peace and good humour and we expect Election 2020 to be no different if everyone recognises their personal responsibility for ensuring that it goes smoothly. A likely maverick in the mix is the weather which created some havoc in the 2015 polls. Voting hours had to be extended to accommodate persons unable to get to polling stations between the official hours. However, weather is factor for which we can prepare.
Election 2020 can go off without a hitch if we all commit to respecting public health protocols and observing the voting process.