The selection of Ms. Elisabeth Harper as the PPP’s Prime Ministerial candidate comes as a complete shock to PPP supporters and even to the nation at large. Her name was never suggested as a PM candidate by respondents in a NACTA survey being conducted on various issues. Of course, no one thought Ms. Harper had any interest in political office having served as a diplomat for over 25 years. Among the names mentioned for PM by party supporters were Bharrat Jagdeo, Ralph Ramkarran, Sam Hinds, Robert Persaud, Irfaan Ali, Frank Anthony, Priya Manickchand, and Ashni Singh. It is generally felt that if Jagdeo or Ramkarran was the PM candidate, the PPP would win the general election with a majority. Even PNC and AFC supporters concede that a Ramotar-Ramkarran or a Ramotar-Jagdeo combination would lead the PPP/C to victory. The same cannot be said of Ms. Harper, not as yet, anyway. The poll will test support for a Ramotar-Harper ticket.
It is doubtful that Ms. Harper will bring any more (African and Mixed) support to the PPP than what Sam Hinds brought between 1992 and the last election in November 2011. Nevertheless, as a new face and as a person of integrity and honesty, and as a female PM candidate, she could be an asset to the PPP on the campaign trail since many voters who are sitting on the fence raised integrity as an issue in deciding how they vote. Also, she can bring some middle class voters who have been turned off by the behaviour of certain officials in the PPP. But Ms. Harper will have to be on the ground campaigning hard – house to house. Her rapport with certain voters can sway them into the PPP camp. If she spends time with voters engaging them, and she has ten long weeks to do it, she will be a tremendous asset to the PPP. She may not bring much more Africans than what the PPP currently obtains, but every vote matters for PPP and she can cement the Indians to the party given that they are tired of seeing the same old faces for some 22 years.
People want younger political leaders. Voters feel tired of seeing the face of Sam Hinds as PM although they respect and admire him and view him as someone of integrity. But they feel there should be a replacement and that the party should give someone new a chance. Among African names being bandied about as PM, people felt Sam was the best option; no other African name had significant support.