Political Debate

Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission


The debates, which will be staged under the auspices of the Trinidad & Tobago Debates Commission, are for the benefit of the people of Trinidad & Tobago. The main purpose of the debates is to help persons make informed choices among candidates for office. The debates shall be produced as “made for television events” by format, meaning that they will run as a TV programme would.



There will be two Leaders debates and the format for each will be as follows:

  1. Each debate will be 90 minutes[1] in duration.
  2. Each debate will commence at 8:05 PM.
  3. Each debate will be on specific themes (subject areas) which will be provided beforehand, and any question relating to those themes will be allowed as being relevant.
  4. Only the Leader of each participating political body or alliance as defined under Criteria for Participation will be permitted to debate.
  5. The countdown of time to answer each question or offer a rebuttal will be displayed and visible to the debaters. The timer will show when time has expired. The timer will be visible to the live audience.
  6. The Moderator will direct the flow of the debate, assisted by a time keeper and guided by the instructions of a producer.
  7. Debaters will have a maximum of 90 seconds to answer the question posed to him/her. The other parties will then have 30 seconds to rebut the response[i].
  8. Debaters are not allowed to ask questions of the Moderator except in a rhetorical manner.
  9. Debaters are to refer to their opponents courteously by name (not by position or title).
  10. The debate will require post debate acknowledgement by each debater of the others, at minimum, a respectful handshake.
  11. Debaters will be asked to stand for the duration of the debate. Special concessions will be made for debaters who are differently abled.
  12. Debaters are asked to note that they are speaking to a wider at-home TV audience than those persons in the room. References to members of the live audience should therefore be avoided.
  13. The political parties are not responsible for the costs and expenses related to the staging of the debates


  1. The debaters will be greeted at the entrance to the venue and escorted directly to their “green rooms”.
  2. No political paraphernalia, including banners, signs, literature etc. will be allowed in the debate venue or its immediate environs. Supporters in the audience are not allowed to wear party-branded clothing or accessories.
  3. For professional television appearance, debaters should wear dark solid business suits or other appropriate dark coloured business attire.
  4. Debaters should not wear striped or patterned clothing, distracting or dark glasses, or white clothing (except under jackets).
  5. Each party is allowed the same number of supporters in the debate hall. A designated officer of each party is required to prepare and provide a list of attendees for admission purposes, and while replacements may be made at the request of this officer, the total allocation of seats will NOT be changed from that agreed beforehand.
  6. Debaters will pull lots to determine the sequencing of studio “walks”, lectern positions and order of speaking.
  7. Time limits on the responses will be strictly observed. Timing mechanisms will be visible to participants and will indicate how much time is left for a response. Participants who exceed their allocation will be interrupted by the Moderator.
  8. If a debater does not adhere to the time limits, the debater’s microphone will be turned off and the camera will turn away.
  9. Debaters are not to interrupt each other.
  10. No photography is permitted during the debate.
  11. No one can attempt to influence the questions or obtain information about the questions.
  12. Notepad and writing instruments will be provided to the debaters. No notes, whether written or otherwise, nor any electronic devices shall be allowed on the set.
  13. The debate will last 90 minutes[1] and there may be breaks as determined by the Commission.
  14. All microphones and cameras will be live and active throughout the entire event, regardless of whether a particular debater or questioner is speaking.
  15. Debaters are required to be at the venue 60 minutes before the start of the debate and are required to be on-stage 15 minutes before the start of the debate. This time is essential to check lights and microphones and ensure an on-time start. In addition, there will be a mandatory technical rehearsal at a time to be worked out with the TTDC and the debaters. No one is allowed to leave the set except during a break for bathroom breaks.
  16. The TTDC will allow for an on-site audience to the debate, and the number of attendees will depend on the debate format and the venue selected. In any event, the TTDC will structure the audience invitees to be equitable to all participating bodies. Audience members are required to be seated 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the debate and may not leave during the debate. They must be silent during the debate.
  17. All electronic devices must be turned off.
  18. Debaters are encouraged to make themselves available for interviews with the media after the debate. An area will be made available to accommodate such.


There will be a Moderator who will conduct the proceedings during the debate. There will be an alternate Moderator available in the event that the Moderator is unable to perform his/her duties for some reason. Hereinafter all references to “the Moderator” include “the Alternate”)


The role of the Moderator is central to the success of the debate. The Moderator will be selected by the Commissioners at their sole discretion. Selection criteria will include, inter alia: political neutrality, knowledge of election issues and broadcast experience. The Moderator manages the debate and poses the questions, ensuring that the candidates follow the agreed-upon rules. The Moderator monitors the timeliness of responses and ensures the efficient flow of the debate proceedings.


The questions to be posed to the debaters will be developed by a panel of independent, eminent persons selected by the Commissioners. These persons will be politically neutral yet knowledgeable about the issues facing the country. The questions will be structured within the context of the general themes selected by the Commissioners. The themes will be made known to the debaters before the debate.


The Moderator will be a member of this panel.


Members of the public will also be invited to submit questions to the panel before the debate, through the use of social media. The panel in its discretion will determine whether a question submitted by the public should be included in the final set of questions.


The Trinidad & Tobago Debates Commission will have no role or influence in determining any of the questions asked. The questions posed will be entirely at the determination of the panel as defined above. The questions will be known only to the panel until they are revealed at the debate.