August 29, 2002

Trinidad's parliament dissolved for October

                 PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- The government dissolved Parliament on
                 Wednesday and called for early elections after a lingering political deadlock
                 stopped legislators from electing a speaker of the house.

                 General elec tions were scheduled for October 7, the third election in three years
                 for the twin-island nation.

                 Faced with a looming political and financial crisis, Prime Minister Patrick Manning
                 reconvened the parliament, which had last met in April in a failed attempt to elect
                 the speaker, to try again.

                 But the party of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday blocked the vote again on
                 Wednesday, forcing the government to dissolve Parliament and call for early

                 Panday's United National Congress party and Manning's People's National
                 Movement canceled out each other's votes during Wednesday's election for a
                 speaker. A majority of votes is needed.

                 The government's budget expires at the end of September and even with
                 emergency funds, the money would only last until October.

                 Still, there is no guarantee the same impasse won't occur during the October

                 The last elections, held in December, resulted in an 18-18 tie that reflected the
                 oil-rich Caribbean nation's split on ethnic lines between those descended from
                 African slaves and East Indian laborers imported after slavery was abolished.

                 President Arthur Robinson resolved the draw by appointing Manning as prime
                 minister. Panday, in turn, said the appointment was unlawful and has since blocked
                 votes to elect a speaker.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.