Brian Manning, the son of the late prime minister Patrick Manning, has moved one step closer to being the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) standard-bearer in the upcoming general election for the constituency his father held for 44 consecutive years.

The younger Manning emerged as the choice of the executive of the San Fernando East constituency on Friday and will face the screening committee led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday.

Manning was able to secure 14 of the 24 votes while the other 10 went to the incumbent Randall Mitchell. PNM sources in San Fernando East, however, say there is a great deal of confusion over the voting, including allegations of fraud.

It is understood Mitchell’s camp believes the ballot box was tampered with and is likely to take a petition to the screening committee today, in which they will gather a majority of signatures of the San Fernando constituency executive to show it was Mitchell who got the majority of votes and not Manning.

When contacted yesterday, both Mitchell and Manning said they were not in a position to comment but both acknowledged the outcome.

Mitchell, who is the Tourism Minister and an attorney, became the San Fernando East MP after he won his seat in the last General Election. He had replaced Manning’s father after the late prime minister opted to bow out of politics following ill health. He subsequently died at the San Fernando General Hospital on July 2, 2016.

Under the PNM’s screening process, a minimum of one party group has to nominate a candidate. They are then screened by the constituency executive and the executive votes for the candidate of choice. If the vote is not unanimous, then all who received votes are free to go before the party’s national screening committee.

It is expected that both Manning and Mitchell will face the committee today but Mitchell is facing an uphill battle having not been able to command the support of the executive five years after being their standard-bearer.

Mitchell also faces an opponent whose family name is synonymous with politics in San Fernando West and whose father never lost an election, even when the PNM was trounced in the 1986 and 2010 general elections.

Manning has a BA in Economics and a BSC Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. He also holds an MSC in Finance and Asset Management, also from the University of Maryland and an MBA in International Business and Marketing from the University of Miami.

Sources in San Fernando East say he has the full backing of his mother Hazel, who is expected to campaign for him if he gets the nod from the national screening committee today.

His late father Patrick Manning joined the PNM as a youth and went on to become its third leader in 1986, rebuilding the PNM after the National Alliance for Reconstruction’s crushing 1986 victory. A geologist, he was T&T’s fourth and sixth prime minister over 1991/95 and 2001/2010. The longest-serving MP, Manning represented the PNM in San Fernando East for 44 years, retiring from politics in January 2015 although he’d initially indicated interest to contest the September 2015 general election.

Among health issues, Manning suffered from rheumatic fever at age 14, underwent heart valve surgery in 1998, had a pacemaker installed in 2004 and also had corrective eye surgery that year. In 2008, he underwent surgery in Cuba to remove a malignant kidney tumour and also had the kidney removed.

Reporter: Curtis Williams