The process to select the PPP/C’s presidential candidate for this year’s general elections is set to begin this week, according to information reaching Stabroek News.
In a brief comment yesterday, a reliable source told this newspaper that nothing much had transpired to date and the process should begin this week. According to the source, that would be “ideal.” And yet another source who chose to remain anonymous said the presidential hopefuls are to appear before the party’s Executive Committee shortly.
“Within two weeks the five candidates are expected to make presentations to the Executive Committee and based on that recommendations will be made to the Central Committee where the candidacy will be finalised,” the source said.
According to the source, the process could be concluded within the first quarter.
Stabroek News also spoke yesterday to the party’s General Secretary Donald Ramotar, who is one of the five persons vying to be the party’s standard bearer in the national polls constitutionally due later this year.
Ramotar, who is viewed as one of the frontrunners and choice of President Bharrat Jagdeo, said he hoped the process could be wrapped up within a month.
“Our presidential candidate, the issue won’t be decided next week but I hope very soon, I hope within a month’s time it should be settled,” Ramotar said.
However, Ramotar did not address a question on whether the candidate would be chosen by secret ballot or open vote, a contentious issue which has stirred passions among some of the presidential aspirants, party members and supporters alike. The most vociferous of these has been Executive Committee member and Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran who has called on the party to honour what he said has been the traditional practice whenever posts were contested by having a secret ballot.
Ramkarran, one of the five in the running, in a full page ad in this newspaper in December had called for secret balloting for the contested candidate position and this was reiterated in the letter columns following a reaction from Ramotar who stated that the matter was still to be decided.
“It is the natural, God-given, right of all human beings to exercise their democratic choice in conditions of secrecy and confidentiality. In all cases where open voting takes place, a single request for a secret ballot must be honoured. This is enshrined in the rules of many organisations. Where not enshrined, this principle is honoured, as it must be,” Ramkarran stated in his letter which appeared in the December 24 edition.
“In fact, there has never, ever, been a vote at any level of the party to decide whether elections should be held by secret ballot or not. This is simply because everyone knows that such a vote would be a gross violation of the democratic right of members to a secret ballot,” he added.
Another outspoken presidential contender and executive member Moses Nagamootoo had long since said he would withdraw from the race should the candidate not be decided by the party members. This was prior to Ramotar’s statement that the matter of the voting was still to be decided.
The party last month issued a statement listing him, along with Ramkarran, Ramotar, Gail Teixeira and Clement Rohee as the presidential contenders. Efforts to contact Nagamootoo on whether he will remain in the race have been unsuccessful.
The party has said its presidential candidate would be selected according to the procedure it has always used.
“The document, which was recently ratified, reinforces the party’s long-standing and tested procedure on the selection of a presidential candidate,” it had noted in a press statement in September.
The PPP explained that the procedure allows for the nomination/expression of interest by interested individuals, deliberations at the level of the Executive Committee, and subsequent approval by the Central Committee. “The approved candidate will then be announced to the membership through regional conferences,” the party added, while pointing out that the process was used in the selection of the late Dr Cheddi Jagan and Mrs Janet Jagan as well as the incumbent Jagdeo to contest the general elections.
Further, the PPP noted that the selection document outlines a code of conduct which potential presidential candidates and their supporters must adhere to before and after the selection of the agreed presidential candidate.