People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that the party’s Central Committee will meet “shortly” to decide the process to select a presidential candidate for the 2020 general elections.
Jagdeo told the media yesterday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, in Queenstown, that there has been much interest in who the PPP’s presidential candidate will be for the polls because that person “will be the next president of Guyana.”
Jagdeo, who was holding his second news conference since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision on Tuesday to uphold the country’s presidential term-limit, thereby preventing him from running for the presidency again, said the interest in the PPP candidate contrasts with “the struggle” taking place within the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), where he claimed executive members Basil Williams, Volda Lawrence and Joseph Harmon were all seeking to become the party’s Chairman. Williams is currently Chairman.
“What is at stake there is that whoever emerges the winner will likely be their presidential candidate but no one is paying attention to that process,” Jagdeo said. “The country recognises that the PPP will be the next Government.”
While on Tuesday Jagdeo had noted that as General Secretary he had a responsibility to lead the process that will end up with a presidential candidate, he clarified yesterday that contrary to rumours that he will choose the next candidate, it is the party’s 35-member Central Committee that will make that choice unless it decides otherwise.
He noted that this has been the case for all elections held over the past two decades. The Central Committee through a secret ballot, he said, also voted for him to be appointed the General Secretary of the party.
The party congress elected the Central Committee, which in turn selects the candidate. “I doubt that will change,” Jagdeo said.
He added that the party membership may select a candidate, but in the end it was how much votes that person can muster at the Central Committee level that determines who will emerge as the candidate.
“One thing we have frowned upon is the lack of modesty from our presidential hopefuls,” he said. Throughout the party’s history, he added, only former PPP member and current Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, “who displayed a public love for himself,” had declared himself the “anointed one” to take over the reins of Government after Dr Cheddi Jagan.
“Once nominated, they will be considered once they are modest in the process. We don’t want the Nagamootoo-type ego to govern how we approach this matter,” he added.
His comments also came on the heels of a public declaration by PPP member Charles Ramson of his interest in being the presidential candidate.
Jagdeo said Ramson would have to be nominated for consideration by the Central Committee.
Jagdeo added that he was not worried about the process, because the party will unite behind the candidate. “We will work hard to ensure a PPP victory in 2020. We are not departing the scene as some people would wish. We are going to be here to ensure that the party stays strong and viable in 2020,” he said.
Using the reasons the CCJ gave for upholding the amendment to the constitution that established the term limit for presidents, Jagdeo said he believes the PPP will win its appeal at the highest level against “the capricious or unilateral appointment by the President of the Chairman of GECOM [Guyana Elections Commission] in contravention of a provision in the Constitution that was agreed to by all sides and received unanimous support when it was placed in the Constitution.”
He continued, “That principle that was used in this case will allow us to win, unless the CCJ acts capriciously in the future.”
Jagdeo charged that President David Granger violated the principle of national consensus and unanimous approval in the Parliament for the constitutional provision that says that the Chairman of GECOM would be chosen in a fashion that keeps the balance in GECOM and in a collaborative way between the Opposition leader and the President.
He expressed hope that the matter will be dealt with urgently in the Court of Appeal. “Our courts seem very reticent to move swiftly on political cases,” he said, before adding that cases that impact on elections results should move with urgency. Three years after filing the elections petition, he observed, “we are yet to have it heard.”
He added that the party was not asking the courts to do it a favour but to hear the case against the appointment of the current Chairman of GECOM, give a decision and if it has to appeal to the CCJ it will. He said it will then hope for a favourable ruling from the CCJ “given that principle that the amendment was unanimously passed in the Parliament and enshrined in our Constitution.”