Nagamootoo-Hughes ticket best for AFC in general election, says Ramjattan

Vice-Chairman of the AFC Moses Nagamootoo is the front-runner to be the party’s presidential candidate in the next general elections and he has gained the support of party leader Khemraj Ramjattan who has also endorsed AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes as the prime ministerial candidate.

“Those two candidates will be hugely popular,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News yesterday. He said that he “absolutely” supports the duo even as he emphasised that he was speaking in his personal capacity. However, he added that he also feels that this is the view of the majority of the party and pointed out that as leader of the party, he strongly feels that he can influence the party in that direction.

The AFC has filed a motion of no-confidence against the Donald Ramotar-led administration, which, if passed, would trigger early general elections. APNU has indicated its support for the motion and the two parties combined hold a one-seat majority in the National Assembly – enough to pass the motion. The motion is likely to be considered in October when the National Assembly reconvenes. However, analysts have said that the Ramotar administration would likely want to pre-empt the opposition’s vote of no-confidence against it and call general elections before the motion is considered.

On October 24, the AFC will elect its leaders who will lead the party into the next elections and also elect the executive of the party. Based on the sentiments expressed by Ramjattan, the elections would likely formalize the Nagamootoo/Hughes ticket. “I am not going to run for either of these two positions,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News. He added though that subject to the membership, he would remain as leader of the party.

He endorsed a Nagamootoo/Hughes ticket for general elections and said that he believes that they are a team capable of running the party and they can gain countrywide support. The AFC leader pointed out that there will be other members of the team who will be elected at the upcoming congress. In expressing his support for the ticket, Ramjattan pointed out that it is a democratic process and he welcomes other members who can come up with a better ticket, but stressed that the Nagamootoo/ Hughes combination is an ideal one. He “absolutely supports” the duo, Ramjattan said.

Meantime, political analyst Christopher Ram also hailed a Nagamootoo/ Hughes ticket. It is an “ideal formulation for the AFC at this stage,” he said.

Ram also praised Ramjattan’s “great decision” in consciously supporting Nagamootoo as the AFC’s presidential candidate. He pointed out that under the AFC’s constitution, Ramjattan could have chosen to vie to be the party’s presidential candidate but chose not to do so. He said that the party leader’s decision shows courage and shows that Ramjattan is not doing it for himself but for the country.

Ram said that he believes that out of all of them, Nagamootoo made the greatest difference in the 2011 general elections which saw the combined opposition gaining a one-seat majority in the National Assembly for the first time in Guyana’s history as the AFC increased its votes. “In respect of the AFC…it was the influence of Nagamootoo,” Ram stated.

He said that he prefers Nagamootoo’s politics rather that the AFC’s which he said, endorses an “unclear concept of liberal democracy.”

Ram said that Nagamootoo is a working class, pro-poor type of politician and given the increasing disparity between the different classes in society, there is need for a voice that can advocate rationally for pro-poor policies while also not antagonizing the business class.

A Nagamootoo/Hughes ticket will create serious problems for the PPP, Ram asserted. He spoke to Stabroek News from Berbice yesterday and said that the PPP has taken that region for granted. He said that the ruling party runs Berbice in the interest of a few and that it has no plans for sugar while the rice industry has encountered rough waters in recent times.

“This is going to create some real political challenges for the PPP,” Ram asserted while adding that this is welcome.

Nagamootoo would need to decide how he would balance his time between politics and his professional work as an attorney which was one of the challenges Ramjattan faced, Ram noted.

As it relates to Hughes, Ram said that it would be a good choice. He had noted that he was happy that Nagamootoo is the front-runner as he alluded to his age. Ram said that Hughes has “relative youth on his side” and appeals to a certain segment of the electorate. He noted that Hughes has taken some knocks over the years but expressed the view that they would not be fatal for his election prospects.

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Dr Steve Surujbally last week said that Gecom is ready for both general and local government elections. He had told Stabroek News that for general elections the groundwork currently being done by Gecom was exactly what is needed to be done to facilitate preparations. He said that whenever the President ap-proached him to say elections were to go, Gecom would deliver within three months as required under the constitution.

Analysts have said that it is more than likely that President Donald Ramotar will be the PPP’s nominee for the presidency, but with a new-look team. The analysts say that the PPP would be hard-pressed to find a new candidate at this point and given its weakened and sharply falling support at two consecutive elections, the ruling party would not want to risk a contest in the party for the presidency. It would also have to deal with the embarrassment of dumping its candidate just after three years. This is despite the fact that Ramotar delivered the worst result in the party’s post-1992 history, leaving it without a majority in parliament.

As it relates to APNU, its main constituent, the PNCR recently returned David Granger to the leadership post in a contentious battle. It is likely that he would lead the coalition in the next general election.

A Nagamootoo/Hughes combination is an “ideal combination” for the AFC at this stage and it would be a mistake for the members not to support that ticket, Ram declared.

“I cannot see a better team from any of the political parties in the next elections,” Ram said. He added that once persons vote based on leadership, then the AFC’s chances in the elections would be greatly boosted.

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