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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 18:29 GMT
Trinidad tensions rise in post-poll wait
President Arthur Robinson
Robinson: "I will not yield to pressure"
More than a week after parliamentary elections in Trinidad and Tobago, President Arthur Robinson has insisted he will wait for a formal notification of the results before appointing a new government leader.

Official, but not yet certified, results give the governing United National Congress (UNC) 19 out of 36 seats in parliament, but the president has still not asked Prime Minister Basdeo Panday to form a new government.

How can I appoint until I have information

President Robinson
Trinidad's electoral commission said it expected to notify the president later on Tuesday, but said it was just a "courtesy" not a legal requirement. Mr Robinson, it said, was free to make appointments before that.

Correspondents say the delay in naming a new prime minister has deepened divisions in the Caribbean country, with the two main parties accusing each other of electoral irregularities.

Reports from the capital, Port-of-Spain, say that both the UNC and the opposotion People's National Movement (PNM) have hinted there may be fresh elections in the near future.


The PNM, which obtained 16 seats, has legally challenged the legitimacy of two winning UNC candidates, and has asked President Robinson to await the court's ruling before appointing a prime minister.

For his part, Mr Panday demands to be sworn in immediately and says the UNC will "not be cheated or robbed of our victory".

But in a speech to the nation late on Monday President Robinson he was pressured by Mr Panday and insisted there was no political vacuum in the country.

"I will not yield to pressure from any side," he said.

"Today is eight days after the election on 11 December and I have not yet received information... How can I appoint until I have information," he added.

Racial divide

Analysts fear the electoral dispute could have grave consequences for race relations in Trinidad.

Trinidadians of African and Indian descent each make up about 40% of the population and tend to vote on racial lines.

The PNM is supported mainly by people descended by African slaves, while the UNC finds its base among those of Indian origins.

Mr Panday, became the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister when he took office in 1995, ending 30 years of black power.

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