The public is anticipating with great interest the impending determination by the PPP of its presidential candidate. A controversy played out in the press and likely to arise surrounds the method of the vote – whether it should be by secret ballot or by open vote. A test is being imposed on the party which claims to have fought for free and fair elections and which has repeatedly condemned others, particularly the PNCR, for failing to uphold high electoral standards.
The choice of a candidate to be President of Guyana is the most important decision the PPP can be called upon to make. The presidential candidate, if elected, will not only represent the PPP in government, but will head the government of the entire country. Members of the PPP should be concerned if there is a dispute about whether the Central Committee will choose the candidate without having a secret ballot, the purpose of which is to ensure that the voting is free and without pressure or constraints.
Under the PPP’s constitution there cannot be such a dispute if any member of the PPP calls for a secret ballot when the Central Committee decides on the choice of candidate. The only time the PPP constitution refers to a secret ballot is in Article 7 paragraph 6 (d) by which Congress is obliged to choose the Central Committee by secret ballot. It cannot be correct for the committee, which is itself the creature of a secret ballot, to refuse to allow a secret ballot for the PPP’s most important decision. The very thought of such a dispute having arisen will lead to a devaluation in the respect for the PPP’s claim to commitment to democracy.
If the PPP Congress had been charged with the responsibility of undertaking the task, and there was more than one candidate, it would have been inconceivable that such a decision would have been taken by open vote. The Central Committee, a creature of the Congress which elects it, can be expected to do no less.
The General Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramotar, who is himself a candidate, has the responsibility to take expert and impartial advice on the matter if he is unsure – although there is no reason why he should be – and to give guidance to the PPP’s leadership.
The PPP’s members and the public at large must also be assured that the party will not enter the elections with its candidate under a cloud of suspicion, which will arise if he or she is elected through a patently undemocratic process, namely, an open vote.
The PPP have talked the democracy talk. Now they must walk the walk. The world is watching.
D V Singh