PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo believes the party’s presidential candidate for 2020 will gain the support of the majority of the 35-member Central Committee (CC).
“That person will get over 50 (per cent) of the votes of the central committee,” Jagdeo told Sunday Stabroek.
The 35-member Central Committee of the People’s Progressive Party will be voting to determine that party’s presidential candidate sometime before Local Government Elections which are set for November 12th.
With the expectation that there will be over five persons contesting for the position, concerns have been raised that a single round of balloting could lead to the absurdity that the candidate is chosen by a small number of CC members. Jagdeo said in response that once nominations are made and confirmed, voting arrangements will be finalised.
Jagdeo has criticized the recent People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) elections, while noting that none of the three candidates who vied for the post of Chairman received 50% or more of the total votes.
“I do not know if the Chairman will go on to be their presidential candidate. But what I do know is that not a single one of the three persons who contested commanded a majority of the delegates and that’s an extremely weak position to be in and to move forward in,” he said.
“If you use the 816 delegates that voted, Volda Lawrence would have gotten 42% of the delegates who voted, Harmon about 25% and Basil Williams about 22%. None of them crossed the 50% threshold. If you use the statement from the PNC, that over 1,000 delegates attended the congress, it meant that a full 20% of the people did not vote. They refused to vote. And if you calculate what Volda got on the basis of the attendance of the delegates, her votes, then it’s under 35% of the delegates who attended the Congress voted for Volda Lawrence. So, that’s an extremely weak position to be in as a leader or the Chairman of your party. That is important to me and I thought you would have gotten a clear differentiation,” he added.
The PPP has said that voting for the presidential candidate would be done through the secret ballot system.
Some observers have suggested that in light of the possibility that the PPP process could see the presidential candidate determined by a small number of persons, there should be multiple rounds of voting among the nominees until only two remain.
Jagdeo explained that he could not detail a process since the nomination process would have to first be completed.
“Someone would have to first be nominated… you may have five contenders and only three or two contest or get nominated because some persons might refuse [nomination],” he said while adding that he prefers to wait and did not want to speculate.
Former parliamentarian Charles Ramson Jr’s public declaration of his interest in being the party’s candidate has positioned him in the running alongside current executive Dr. Frank Anthony, former Attorney-General Anil Nandlall and Dr. Vindhya Persaud.
More recently, PPP executive member Gail Teixeira has said that Lawrence’s victory in the race for PNCR Chairman may have “tantalised” her into joining the race.
Jagdeo was asked about the party’s posture on self-publicizing and canvassing support. He said that at a recent Executive Committee meeting, the issue was discussed and a decision was taken to put out a statement on what the process would entail. “The party Ex-Co (Executive Committee) has agreed that we put a statement outlining the process. The congress appointed 35 to sit in the Central Executive of the party. They then elected another 15 to serve as the Executive of the party. Right now the procedure that we have used and will in all likelihood use again unless the Central Committee decides to change it…they will vote in a secret ballot on all of the persons whose names are before them on the ballot,” Jagdeo said.
“I said before there is nothing wrong with people saying ‘I am interested’. What is wrong with that to say ‘I am interested’? [Nothing] but I urge all the party members and all who are canvassing not to
disparage anyone else. Because at the end of the day all of these people will rally around the person we choose and we move on…,” he added.
Jagdeo’s influence on the selection of the candidate for the 2020 polls is now under close scrutiny, party sources say.
He has already declared that he intends to be a part of the next PPP government, but sources within and close to the party believe that he is likely to also face resistance from both younger members who have their own support bases as well as the party’s old guard, with whom he has long had an uneasy relationship, including during his 12-year presidency.
Although Jagdeo as PPP General Secretary is currently the de facto party leader, his ineligibility to lead the party to the polls is being seen as an opening for younger members of the party who fancy their chances of running or being part of a ticket.