The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is seeking a balance of candidates–50% from within the party and 50% from civil society—to contest the local government elections on November 12th, Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo says.
“These are people who are known in the area—people of good repute, law-abiding citizens who have done community work, religious leaders, young people in the youth movements—that calibre of people, from the PTA, policing groups etc. They will not be party members but people who have skills and can relate to the community,” he told reporters at a press conference held at his Queenstown office yesterday.
Jagdeo said that in the search of the best candidates, the party has listed 13 criteria that will guide the selection.
Candidates have to state upfront whether they will have time to attend meetings and to volunteer to deal with the issues of the municipalities or neighbourhood democratic councils which they will represent. The party has found, he said, that when it selects candidates who are elected councillors, they do not serve as they should because they do not get a salary and they have to earn a living elsewhere.
Councillors will also have to commit to be trained for the task they will be undertaking as the party also found that once they were elected, councillors did not make the time for training over the last three years. “We want councillors to be well trained,” he said.
Candidates will have to commit to support and defend the positions they campaigned on in the run up to the elections. For example, if they campaigned on the slogan of “No new taxes” and “Greater transparency in revenue collection and expenditure,” he said, “they must subscribe to this” and not change their position on their own soon after they would have been elected.
Two other criteria on which the party is placing emphasis are the ability of the councillors to represent issues and to have good inter personal skills so people can relate and depend on them for representation.
The screening and selection of candidates, Jagdeo said, will be done in the 81 local government areas.
“They will do the screening and selection right at the bottom, then in consultation with the party leadership, we will select the final people. It is better that way because they know the people on the ground rather than Freedom House trying to decide who will be the candidate in Port Kaituma or Mabaruma or one of these areas or even on the coast here,” he explained.
The party had put in place its structures for most of Guyana already, he said. “We are now in the process of preparing for Nomination Day (September 21). Soon you are going to see more specific area campaigns starting,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo said that on Monday, a team from the PPP met with Chief Election Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Keith Lowenfield to find out the exact boundaries of constituencies.
“Nomination day is September 21. We find it unacceptable that until now, we do not have precise boundaries in many of these areas and no process of consultation, which we believe is a basic tenet of good governance, has been embarked upon,” he lamented.
Not willing to get into the details at the time, Jagdeo said, there was a commitment by GECOM to share more with the party. “Once we get that we will make it known in the public,” he said.
However, he said that what the party has heard has given it great cause for concern. First of all, he said, it was told that there was no requirement to consult on the changes, which may see the merger of several large constituencies in areas that the PPP now controls. “In fact I was told there may be two mergers in one of the local government areas of two of the largest constituencies,” he explained, while noting that these constituencies are in the Bush Lot area.
Rather than merging small constituencies, he said, government is merging the largest ones because those are controlled by the PPP. “It is clear gerrymandering,” he charged.
So when President David Granger speaks about good governance from bottom to top to the leaders of the local democratic organs, he added, “They must be thinking in their heads he (Granger) needs to find out what is going on in his own government because the practice on the ground has nothing to do with bottoms-up management or consultation.”
On Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan’s comments that Central Govern-ment’s interference is a thing of the past, Jagdeo said it was Bulkan who, with the approval of his Cabinet, unilaterally decided that they were going to establish several new local government bodies and change boundaries within existing local government bodies, without consulting any one on the ground or with the parliamentary opposition.