Fixed Dates for Future Elections in Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad Guardian, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is seeking term limits for the prime minister’s post. During her contribution at the opening of the first and last session of current tenth Parliament yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “In our present proposals there is a simple amendment which prevents the President from offering the prime ministership to anyone who has served for two full terms or at least ten years and six months, which is the two constitutional terms.

“We’re of the view fossilised leadership, which entrenches itself via manipulation and control of party politics, is an anathema to the principles of democracy and growth. “We’ve had our fair share of leaders who continued to rule and refused to give way even though it was obvious that the time for change had come. This can suffocate new talent and stifle a democracy.”

She said whilst American presidents leave office with dignity and grace, Westminster prime ministers cling to power to the very end and are often forced out of office in indignity and disgrace. “These were the words I read long ago in an article by Prof Selwyn Ryan,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“Some 91 countries worldwide have term limits of two terms for their heads of government. We’re seeking to become country number 92 with term limits for the prime minister. There are many benefits for this. In the debate, we’ll spend more time (on this),” she added. The PM also said the Constitution Commission recommended that the date for general elections should be fixed.

“It is therefore proposed that the life of a Parliament should ordinarily be fixed at five years. This will effectively fix the date for the holding of general elections. Gone would be the days of silly boasts and taunts about leaders ‘having the date in their backpocket.’ “This provides clarity for the population at large and enhances the ability to participate in our democratic life, for all will know the electoral timetable,” she added. Persad-Bissessar said Government intended to lay a bill including that reform shortly.