Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday went into full campaign mode as he laid out plans for the his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which he urged supporters to follow as he believes it was key to ensuring a victory at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Using the centennial birth anniversary of late PPP founder and President, Dr.Cheddi Jagan, which was held at Babu John, Corentyne, Berbice yesterday. Jagdeo, whose party lost the 2015 general elections by under 5,000 votes, told attendees that he forecasts a PPP win by 50,000 votes come 2020 but that it would not be realized without hard work and the following through of his plan.
“I want the media and our supporters to know that we will not be lying down. We will be looking for every loophole,” he told the over 1,500 attendees at the event.
He would later add, even as he reminded that the next election will be one of the most critical in the country’s history, “We will wage the fight until the PPP is victorious. And no matter what (President David) Granger does, we are sending the message that this is a different time.
Jagdeo said that he knows that the country zooms in on his annual address at Babu John to gain insight to his thoughts and wanted everyone to know that he had mapped out a strategy which has already been activated and the party will work to implement until 2020 and also a list of policies and programmes that will be on the elections manifesto.
On the eve of the hearing of the presidential third term case at the Caribbean Court of Justice which will decide whether or not he can run for the presidency again, Jagdeo made no mention of who will be the party’s next presidential candidate but pleaded with supporters to be vigilant and on the lookout for possible plans to rig the elections while also promising constitutional reform.
“Given the nature of the PNC, there is a fear that they will rig the next elections…we must never allow this fear to paralyze us,” he said. The PNC is the key party in APNU which is part of the governing coalition.
“We are not lying down. We are not taking it as granted that they will rig the elections, we are looking out for every single method that they will use and we will block those so that the PPP can emerge victorious,” he added.
And expressing dissatisfaction with the number of registrants during the Guyana Elections Com-mission’s (GECOM) last registration cycle, he said that one aspect of the plan was to get every eligible supporter out to vote.
“We have just concluded a registration exercise in many of our strongholds, when we look at the numbers people are eager to come out but the numbers who went to the registration centres do not match the numbers although we have had the highest amount of people who have registered in this cycle than ever and most of them are in our stronghold. So that’s a good sign but we need to step up the work in the next cycle,” he said.
“We have to start preparing the logistics to bring every single voter out,” he added.
And at the level of GECOM, he said that the party’s commissioners would be watching to see “how they hire election day staff” because he believes there needs to be a racial balance in the hiring.
And if there is no electronic voting system in 2020, the PPP/C’s commissioners would also see that there is independent verification of the 2015 database with the next database as well as another independent verification of the digitized birth certificates. He informed that this would be done because the party does not trust Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix. “We don’t trust Felix and the others…so we have to have an independent verification of that list,” he said.
“If we don’t have an electronic way of voting we have to find a way of scrubbing that list…getting dead people off that list and getting a transparent list,” he added.
And when he was done taking supporters though the plan of outreach and being vigilant at the polls, the PPP/C leader turned to engagement with civil society.
He said that this was a category by itself as he believes that interfacing with civil society was another way of gaining the support of voters.
“We must form a compact with civil society as the basis for the future,” Jagdeo said as he contended that it will bridge the gap of possible racial and class-based distractions of politicians.
There is a space for civil society and they need to know that there are some things that the PPP will put in the future.
And listing promises that will be in his party’s next manifesto, Jagdeo told laid-off Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) workers that the PPP will ensure that they are given stipends until they can find permanent jobs. “The first day the PPP gets into power, each sugar worker will get a stipend until they can get a job,” he said to the applause and cheers of attendees.
Promises were also made to remove Value Added Taxes from 46 items that the APNU+AFC had implemented for everyone and another 200 that was directly related to the Private Sector.
He said that there would also be the reintroduction of subsidies for senior citizens and educational school grants for children.
While not listing any specific aspects of the constitution that he or his party feels needs changing, he said that the PPP/C will be supportive of constitutional reform and campaign financing reform.
“Whatever people want we will support in the constitution,” he said.
He did not go into the oil and gas sector but promised that the PPP/C will also formulate an apolitical system for management of the emerging sector since he believes that there is or will be no solid plan on the way forward for an industry said to be the backbone of the country’s economy. “We would initiate a study for the natural gas offshore to see how it can be incorporated here for use,” he said.
Taking jabs at governing coalition partner, the Alliance for Change, Jagdeo said that the party would be a non-entity in the 2020 elections and does not foresee them gaining any parliamentary seats.
However, he believes that the APNU faction of the coalition would gain about 30% of the votes and that would mean that a winning PPP/C would have to engage with them. He promised if that was the case the party would look at having amicable relations with the APNU for the good of the country.
But after giving his roadmap to 2020, Jagdeo reminded that it would be a difficult task but given that the rewards would be sweet, to not lose faith.
“Don’t think it is going to get easier. They are going to get more desperate as they lose support…I know the nature of the beast,” he said while adding that winning will not come “by gaff” but unified work between supporters and their leaders.