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COP clamps down on election spending

By RICHARDSON DHALAI Sunday, June 8 2014

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THE CANDIDATES: Standing proudly together yesterday at the COP's Operation Centre, Charlieville, are from left to right, Rufus Foster, Carolyn Seepers...
THE CANDIDATES: Standing proudly together yesterday at the COP's Operation Centre, Charlieville, are from left to right, Rufus Foster, Carolyn Seepers...

THE Congress of the People (COP) is setting the stage for control of election campaign funding in Trinidad and Tobago.

Yesterday, the party’s election committee informed the four contenders vying for COP’s political leadership, that a $50,000 ceiling has been placed for each of them to spend on the campaign and not a cent more. COP’s elections committee acting chairman, Vallence Rambharat, also informed candidates that there is to be a ban on advertisements in the media to promote their candidacy. Failure to comply, it was announced at the party’s Operations Centre in Charlieville by Rambharat, would result in the disqualification of the offending candidate. Rambharat said yesterday’s meeting stressed the importance of obeying the campaign rules.

Yesterday, the four candidates — incumbent political leader Prakash Ramadhar; current chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan (Minister of Public Administration); Dr Lincoln Douglas (deputy political leader); Rufus Adolphus Foster (chairman of the Arouca/Maloney constituency) — were presented. The meeting was called to present the candidates with the membership list, which was revealed to be approximately 40,000, as well as the written campaign rules. Each candidate for the June 29 elections was presented with copies of the list and the rules.

Rambharat said, “Each candidate should stick to the $50,000 finance cap. They should not publish or make false statements against other candidates.”

Ramadhar, who had advocated control over financing of political campaigns both in internal party and general elections, is seeking a second term as political leader of the COP. Rambharat also announced yesterday, a measure that would monitor campaign financing through indirect means, citing the campaign rule the committee has drafted which states that neither a candidate nor any person acting on his behalf, shall directly or indirectly spend or enter into any obligation, to spend more than TT$50,000 in the promotion of a candidate.

Another rule directs election agents of the respective contenders to submit a comprehensive list of expenses incurred in promoting the candidate within ten days after the election date, to the election committee. And, should a candidate’s election spending exceed the $50,000 margin, he or she must list the expenses before the date of the election.

On media advertisement, Rambharat said a candidate should not permit or approve any advertisement in the paid mass media to promote his or her candidacy.

The candidates for the leadership are to participate in three debates — one public debate on June 26 and two on television on June 14 and 24. Addressing the committee and supporters at the Operations Centre yesterday, Ramadhar acknowledged that the party had “taken blows, left, right and centre” over the past years. “The leadership that I have been able to give to this party, wasn’t singular to me. Every single issue of import was determined by vote in this very room,” Ramadhar said. Seepersad-Bachan said while she believed that coalition government was the “right solution” for Trinidad and Tobago, each partner within the coalition, had to be strong.

“We believe in coalition government; coalition government is here to stay and as a partnership, you have to ensure that every component and every party in that coalition, is strong. There cannot be one strong partner and another weak partner.” Douglas said the COP is in need of “revitalising, re-energising and mobilising. Adolphus Foster described the COP’s party as “a great party”, but said that the root of party had been shaken.

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