Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that the PPP/C sought to make its selection process for candidates for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) as inclusive as possible to ensure a balance across ethnicity, gender, class and other areas.
Jagdeo was speaking at a press conference on Monday at Freedom House on Robb Street, where candidates from various areas were also present.
He said the press conference was called as a result of the PPP/C’s intention of showing that it does not just preach about transparency and accountability, but also practices it.
“I want to reemphasise that we sought to be as inclusive as possible in the process of selecting candidates,” he noted.
Jagdeo said that the leadership of the party set up groups in each of the 80 Local Authority Areas where it would be contesting in order to identify and select candidates. The “LGE groups,” he said, comprised people from the PPP, prominent individuals in the communities and members of civil society.
“We said we wanted the list to reflect a balance between PPP members and members of civil society – retired teachers, retired policemen and other prominent individuals – who are committed to doing social work. We have many of them who are active in local government bodies but are not members of our party and they may be sympathisers who agree with our programme but are not members of the party and we want them included on our list because they have a great contribution to make in the development of their villages, NDC [Neighbourhood Democratic Council] or municipalities,” Jagdeo explained.
“We wanted more women on our lists. We wanted religious and class balance. We didn’t want all intellectuals and no farmers or fishermen because they have a role too and vice versa. We wanted a balanced list that reflected class, gender, race and religion,” he added.
For the 80 areas, more than 300 candidates have been put forward and more than 20,000 have been listed on the backers’ lists.
In addition to ensuring the lists were balanced, Jagdeo said, the PPP/C also wanted to ensure that they were comprised of people with integrity, who are respectable, law abiding and have good interpersonal skills.
This, he noted, is para-mount since the party wants representatives who would be able to relate to the people.
“We want them to have an attitude and a way of communicating with people that made them feel that their representatives have their interests in hand… And then we also said that people must be willing to represent issues in their community and [have a] willingness to give time for volunteerism because these positions, those who become councillors, are not going to get large sums of money. The major part of the work is voluntary,” he added.
Jagdeo said even after the criteria for selection was identified, the party ensured a consultation process where its representatives went house to house and also hosted meetings to offer residents of the respective communities input into the selection of the candidates. “So it’s not just about sitting in a room with the list of criteria and handpicking people by a small group. We wanted our local elections committee to go out as widely as possible and solicit names from people who live in the communities and the 80 lists reflect lots of that work,” he noted, while accepting that they were not perfect but the party sought as far as possible to stick to its principles.
The representatives from the different regions of the country also gave brief remarks at the press conference.