Thinking About PPP’s Presidential Candidacy: How Solid is the Ground upon which Supporters are Walking?

Bharrat Jagdeo


Since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) made its controversial ruling that a two-term President cannot run for a 3rd term, there has been widespread speculation among PPP supporters and others, including the PNC-AFC operatives and trolls as to who will become the PPP Presidential candidate. Naturally supporters have their favorites and they will want their candidate to occupy the top spot.

Currently, there is hardly any discussion on what should be the basic requirements for such an important position. Rather than trying to get a consensus on the parameters of the job (as Presidential candidate) first, there is this steady flow of identifying candidates, largely based on emotions and likeability. In the enthusiasm to choose a Presidential candidate one must not lose sight of the bigger picture as well as lose sight of the Party’s priorities and perspective. Perhaps, the minimum standards should be set first and then individuals could see who best fit those standards.

The success of the PNC-led government to knock former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo off the ballot was received with jubilation by their supporters and by disappointment of many Jagdeo supporters. What is interesting though is that the coalition operatives now believe that they have a good chance of retaining power as they have always viewed Jagdeo as a formidable candidate. They are missing an important point: the PPP will remain strong despite Jagdeo not being the Presidential candidate. It is the coalition that has given the PPP much strength and encouragement largely because of their (coalition) poor performance.

Well known political commentator and WPA executive member, David Hinds and others enthusiastically embrace the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ruling against a third term. More important though they believe that the CCJ ruling knocked the wind out of the sail of the PPP’s election drive. David Hinds’ forecast will not happen. Jagdeo himself states that the PPP has many competent individuals who could serve in the capacity of President and that anyone of them would be a better President than David Granger. Jagdeo has also pledged to work hard to ensure that the PPP returns to power in 2020.

The PNC-led coalition knows that they would not prevail at the 2020 general elections given their horrible performance, so that is apparently causing them to hatch a sinister plot to topple the PPP Presidential candidate. At his weekly press conference, Jagdeo expressed fears that the government may try to knock the chosen PPP Presidential candidate off the ballot by instituting frivolous charges against the candidate. Perhaps this helps to explain why the government, despite announcing a long time ago that other charges were going to be instituted against PPP operatives, is holding back on these until the PPP announces its Presidential candidate! Such an act is not beyond the coalition!

While pondering on various possibilities, we have been told by the PPP General Secretary and Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, that the party has an established process to identify or select a candidate for the Presidency. That has worked well in the past and there is no reason to depart from that practice. Anil Nandlall also echoed the same position on his weekly TV program. We must understand that no Party can accommodate a multitude and diversity of views that have been advanced to determine the way forward. That’s why there is a Central Executive or [policy making body] to reflect upon these and determine which ones are viable for implementation. Apart from expressions of interest and nominations, Presidential candidates who meet the minimum criteria should also be involved in at least one debate, with a non-PPP official as the Moderator. The members of the Central Executive can then cast their secret votes after that debate.

The minimum criteria should include but are not limited to such qualities as (i) an impressive record of tough but compassionate, (ii) good political track record, (iii) a visionary and one who is creative and innovative, (iv) putting country first, (v) faithful to Party’s agenda, etc. (Please see chart above). Candidates should possess a combination of qualities that would help the Party to choose the one who is the most electable.

As PPP supporters and others continue to engage in debates/conversations over the choice of a Presidential candidate, it’s important that they also consider asking their Party to drop the controversial ideology of Marxism and Marxist terminology. While a few elements of Marxism might have given some comfort to supporters, the time has come with a changing world economic system and the prospect of Guyana becoming a major oil producing country, that they tone down or even drop their Marxist rhetoric, and become alert to new realities that confront nations, including Guyana. Marxists rhetoric will badly hurt the Party.

It is expected therefore that the Presidential candidate will work hard to introduce a compatible philosophy of growth appropriate to the emerging economic situation. Closely related to this factor is the need for the candidate to work towards embracing the ABC countries, among others. If these things do not happen, the PPP’s chances of winning the 2020 election will be considerably diminished. Politics is not about ideals. It’s about what works! Who can deliver!

While Marxist ideology might have been appealing particularly in the 2nd and 3rd quarter of the 20th century throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere, including Guyana, because it was believed then that it provided a good explanation to the problems of poverty and under-development, it finally lost its force following the collapse of the cold war. The international Marxist appeal dissipated as new challenges and realities began to face nations.

Market reforms, conservative values, basic needs, and social welfarism have replaced Marxism as important philosophies of growth and development. Guyana’s precarious economic situation in the 1970s and 1980s forced the PNC (Hoyte) government to abandon its brand of socialism and embrace instead a market-oriented reform, Economic Recovery Program (ERC), which has continued by the PPP government (which regained power in 1992) and brought the country out of bankruptcy.

The plan of the coalition to create chaos within the PPP will not succeed. Faced with one of their biggest challenges following their loss at the 2015 general elections, the PPP machinery did not collapse but has emerged stronger. They have to build upon this edifice and it is expected that supporters and others would rally around the chosen Presidential candidate.


The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.