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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 23:49 GMT
High turnout in Trinidad poll
Election rally of the opposition PNM
The main opposition promises radical social reform
Polls have closed in Trinidad and Tobago, where the second general election within a year has been taking place.

The governing United National Congress (UNC) is struggling to keep its majority in the 36-seat parliament.

It faces stiff opposition from the People's National Movement (PNM), led by former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who campaigned on a platform of social reform and promises to end corruption.

Voter turnout was higher than anticipated, and partial results are expected by midnight local time (0400 GMT Tuesday).

The UNC won a two-seat majority last year, but Prime Minister Basdeo Panday called new elections in October after three of his ministers left the government, complaining of corruption within the party.

Rally by the governing party UNC
The governing UNC promises to eradicate poverty by 2010

The 850,000 voters in the oil-rich two-island nation of 1.3 million are divided along racial lines, with Trinidadians of Indian descent usually backing the UNC, and those of African origin mostly favouring the PNM.

Both groups comprise roughly 40% of the population.

The latest polls showed Mr Panday's UNC slightly ahead of the National Movement, but the 68-old prime minister conceded last week that the elections were the "most difficult battle" of his political life.

Corruption allegations

Corruption allegations have plagued Mr Panday's second term in office, who, in 1995, become the country's first prime minister of Indian descent.

During the election campaign, newspaper reports appeared almost daily which suggested that the government had been awarding public works contracts - such as the new international airport that cost $400m - in exchange for backhanders.

Basdeo Panday
Prime Minister Basdeo Panday called elections four years early

The allegations have been consistently denied by the UNC.

Monday's vote comes against a backdrop of tighter economic conditions because of the plummeting oil price, which provides two-thirds of the nation's export revenue.

Unemployment in one of the wealthiest Caribbean nations is still high and poverty widespread.

The election is the ninth since Trinidad gained independence from Britain in 1962.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Miles
"Whichever government is in power at the time has favoured its own kind"
See also:

24 Jan 01 | Americas
Trinidad PM warns of 'coup plot'
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Trinidad and Tobago
31 Jul 01 | Americas
Timeline: Trinidad and Tobago
09 Dec 01 | Americas
Trinidad's voters reassess loyalties
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