Although Bharrat Jagdeo is positioned as the PPP’s first choice for presidential candidate at the 2020 general elections, pending a crucial ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), three former ministers—Dr Frank Anthony, Anil Nandlall and Irfaan Ali—are waiting in the wings as potential choices and are quietly canvassing support.
“Everything right now is hinged on the CCJ ruling because if it goes in favour of us [the PPP], then without question Mr. Jagdeo will run again,” one well-placed source told Sunday Stabroek.
“If the CCJ keeps the current law, then it’s down to three, Irfaan, Nandlall and Frank and that is in itself interesting because forget what you see on the outside, there are factions within the party and how that would be divided is another matter,” another source added.
The CCJ is currently considering an appeal of rulings by the local judiciary overturning the presidential term limit, which could open the door for Jagdeo, a two-term president to seek re-election again. .
Jagdeo has continually distanced himself from the case, saying that he still supports the two-term limit.
“It was clear. I signed that into law and it is challenged. Signing it into law means I had to agree with it, that is my position,” he said last month as the case began.
But asked if he was interested in running in 2020, Jagdeo would only say, “When we decide who our candidate will be, it will be someone who the party chooses and will be consistent with the laws of the country.”
“Right now that has not been decided. That is a moot issue at this time. I have a job and that is General Secretary of the party,” he said.
When asked, former president Donald Ramotar, who was forced to call early elections in 2015 and lost by just under 5,000 votes, would not directly say if he would accept a nomination to run again either. “This is a decision that the party has to make and that decision is still to be made. I have always been a loyal member of the party and have always discharged whatever decisions the party made to the best of my ability,” he told this newspaper.
Sunday Stabroek re-ached out to former Nandlall, who previously served as Attorney General, Ali, who served as Minister of Housing, and Anthony, who served as served as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport enquiring about their interest in being the candidate.
Only Nandlall replied. Not ruling out acceptance of the post of presidential candidate, he said that his decision would be based solely on what the party determines.
“It is within the party’s sole and exclusive authority whom it will select to be its presidential candidate. The mechanism by which the selection is made, is again, a matter to be solely and exclusively determined by the party. I always consider it a great honour to serve my people and my country in any capacity,” he told Sunday Stabroek.
Ali promised on multiple occasions that he would return a call to offer his views but had not up to last Thursday evening.
Anthony asked that he be given time to think about if he would comment but subsequent calls to his phones over the course of last week went unanswered.
One party insider suggested that their silence might be tactical, considering that the current Opposition Leader “overlooks the party with an iron fist and is only challenged by the old guard (longstanding members and loyal supporters of the two late presidents Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan).”
“Any form of resistance to him would see a calculated effort to have you maligned and shut out and I think it is why no one wants to really say anything. Everything has to come through him, with differing views only from the old guard of the party …all the others are yes people and that is where he wants them,” a source said.
Jagdeo appeared to have taken a swipe at the party’s longstanding members during a memorial event held at Babu John, Berbice last month, saying that some persons believe that only they could talk about the memories of Cheddi Jagan and that more than memories is needed to execute party work on the ground.
Sources say that at PPP Central Executive meetings there is a “clear division,” with Jagdeo’s faction including Nandall, Ali, Nigel Dharamlall and old guards Gail Teixeira and Dr. Roger Luncheon.
Ramotar, Clement Rohee, Indra Chandarpal and Komal Chand are said to be among the old guard who challenge Jagdeo.
It is not the first time that sources have pointed to infighting, with party insiders lamenting that shortly before the party’s 2016 congress, that there was a hostile atmosphere within the party. One source had noted that the tension-filled atmosphere had to do with choosing the new leadership and possible presidential candidate for the 2020 polls. Then, the source had also pointed out that there were factions and divisions among members.
Jagdeo prevailed over Rohee to take the pivotal General Secretary position, which he still holds.
It is for this reason that should a candidate be chosen for 2020, he or she would need Jagdeo’s support as many in the party believe that he can galvanise supporters.
Anthony is not expected to get Jagdeo’s support as a presidential candidate but even on his own is usually a high vote-getter at PPP Congresses.
“The PPP did not have the courage to embrace and elect Dr Anthony, a truly honourable son of Guyana, who refused to kowtow. May Guyana be forever grateful to Dr Anthony. When an honest and trusted contender is most needed, Dr Anthony stands bravely against the host of bootlickers who refuse to see the potential damage of their choice for a General Secretary who has a record of accusations against him that is detrimental to their party, Guyanese and Guyana,” PPP supporter Stanley Niamatali wrote last year in a letter to the editor of this newspaper.
Sources have raised doubts about Ali’s likelihood of success, given the various questions that have arisen over time in relation to his role in the controversial allocation of land in the ‘Pradoville 2’ housing scheme and other areas under his stewardship as minister.
Nandlall has a prominent public profile and is very vocal on a range of issues. He is expected to be supported by most factions of the party as he is seen not only as one of its better legal minds but as someone who is active and travels across the country to galvanise supporters.