The opposition PNM in Trinidad and Tobago held elections for leadership and other executive posts last Sunday. For the first time in the party’s history, the entire executive was chosen by its members in one person one vote. Previously, the leader and the leadership of the party were handpicked by delegates in a most undemocratic manner. The UNC was the first party in Trinidad to democratize the way a party’s leadership is chosen by allowing its members to select the executives including the leader. The opposition COP, formed in (2006) followed suit in 2011. And now the PNM has completed the process with all three of the main parties using the same procedure to choose leaders. All the parties in Guyana need to emulate the Trinidad process; this will empower the voters and democratize the process. It is most undemocratic to use a delegate system to choose leaders or to hand-pick (rotate leaders in an informal arrangement) or to pick and choose who can vote. Every member is equal and should have equal say in choosing the leadership of a party; everyone should have the right to vote and the prospective leaders should earn the title in a free and fair election, not through some back-room deal.
In Trinidad, Dr Keith Rowley, who became leader in 2010 following the defeat of Patrick Manning in the May 2010 general elections, recognized the unfairness of the process of a handful of individuals coming together at a central location and choosing who will be leader. He decided to change the way the leadership is chosen by empowering the members.
The PNM party has approximately 82,000 members. I conducted a series of opinion polls on the elections pertaining to various issues. There was overwhelming endorsement of the new process by 98%. The NACTA poll projected a landslide victory for Rowley and his slate of candidates for 15 executive posts. Two slates and number of independents contested the posts.
In the elections, some 19,400 voted – approximately 23%. The turnout was low but at least the members cannot claim they were not given an opportunity to participate in the process.
Dr Rowley won by a landslide 93% to 7%. His slate also cleaned up the entire leadership posts.
There were some hiccups in the process and Dr Rowley was applauded for reforming his party and democratizing the process. If only the leadership of the three parties in Guyana could emulate Rowley and do the same, what a breakthrough we would have in our politics.