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Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh makes a contribution during debate on the motion to approve the Draft EBC Order, 2020 during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.

Citizens should get ready for elections amid COVID-19 restrictions.

The recently-presented Election and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) draft order on T&T’s 41 constituencies is a precursor for upcoming general elections – but the challenge is now how T&T can host elections amid COVID-19 safeguards.

So said United National Congress MP Ganga Singh in Parliament yesterday, after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley laid the EBC order there.

The order recommended changes to boundaries in 12 of the 41 constituencies: Couva North and Sout, Cumuto/Manzanilla and Sangre Grande, Laventille East and Laventille West, Port-of-Spain North and South, Oropouche East and West and San Fernando East and West. All other constituencies remain the same.

Rowley described the boundary changes as “minor.” The changes involve delimitation of some electoral areas and shifting polling divisions in certain constituencies into other seats.

The 2019 order’s recommendations must be approved by Parliament.

Rowley said T&T’s population will soon be 1.4 million overall. The voting public was about 1 million in 2015, he added.

UNC’s Singh, replying to Rowley’s presentation, took time to congratulate Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and his team for “rising to the extraordinary (COVID) challenge in public health and emerging with some measure of stability.”

But noting that social distancing will now be the new normal, Singh added, “So the challenge we face now in the pandemic is, can we host a general election with all the safeguards required for COVID-19?”

Noting that almost 25,000 people usually work for elections, Singh asked how social distancing can be maintained with this.

“… And I’m not even getting into how you’re going to campaign,”

Singh noted recent EBC statements on having polls amid COVID restrictions and that electronic voting wasn’t possible for T&T. He also asked what the legislative pathway would be to obtain Government’s proposed campaign finance reform prior to elections. He noted serious problems arose with Guyana’s recent poll, where personnel were compromised and engaged in vote-rigging.

Singh noted elections can be anywhere between September when the term ends to December 23. While the Constitution allows for a delay of polls in event of war, he said the “war on COVID-19 ” didn’t allow for that. Singh said it won’t be easy for T&T ahead, with oil and gas prices at all-time lows and Pt Lisas companies in problems.