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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 05:49 GMT 06:49 UK
Talks fail to break Trinidad deadlock
Basdeo Panday
Basdeo Panday compares himself to Martin Luther King
Delegates from Trinidad and Tobago's two major political parties have failed to break the deadlock that has paralysed the country's political system for nearly four months.

Patrick Manning
Manning became prime minister in December

Parliament has not met since the general election last December that ended in a tie between the two main political parties.

But despite talks for three hours, supporters of Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his predecessor and rival for the post, Basdeo Panday, failed to elect a speaker.

Mr Panday, of the United National Congress, maintains that if a speaker is not elected by next Tuesday then new elections must be called.

However Mr Manning, of the People's National Movement, says merely opening parliament was enough to satisfy any constitutional requirement.

Correspondents say that if an agreement is not reached between the two parties, the issue is likely to end up in court.

Rivalry

The political deadlock reflects bitter rivalry between the two main political parties, in a country where voters' loyalties are largely determined by ethnic origin.

President Arthur Robinson
President Arthur Robinson tried to break the stalemate

Until last December, the governing party was the UNC, which draws most of its support from people of Indian descent.

After the election, it ended up with 18 seats in parliament - as did the PNM, which is supported mainly by Afro-Trinidadians.

President Arthur Robinson tried to resolve the stalemate by deciding on a change of prime minister, and the PNM leader, Patrick Manning, was sworn in on Christmas Eve last year.

However, Mr Panday thought he should have remained in office. He says the only way to settle the matter is for the country to hold its third general election in three years.

To this end, he has launched what he calls a campaign of civil disobedience, comparing his struggle to the non-violent protest movements of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

See also:

10 Dec 01 | Americas
High turnout in Trinidad poll
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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