The government is probably pleased the PPP’s eagerly awaited 31st Congress is being held this weekend since it will definitely help to take its much-maligned Budget off the front pages.
The PPP, on the other hand will be quite chuffed with its performance over the last two weeks when it was clearly much more in touch with public sentiments on necessary budgetary matters than the government. The PPP came out of the budget debate with its reputation for engendering economic development quite enhanced.
But the Budget Debate, which as a matter of fact, was moved back to accommodate the PPP’s Congress, also offered the public at large, and the party delegates in particular, an opportunity to review their assessments of the party officials who will be vying for positions at the Congress. While there will be workshops and reports on a raft of issues by the various components of the party’s structure – such as women, youths etc., the “main event” will be the election of the PPP’s 35-member Central Committee.
This is the most powerful party organ between the triennial Congresses and very quickly after the Congress, they will in turn elect the smaller Executive Committee (Ex-Co) from within their ranks. Another eagerly awaited election will be that of the post of General Secretary (GS) of the PPP. Traditionally, this was the most powerful position of the PPP, especially after it converted itself to an orthodox Marxist-Leninist party in 1969. Until his death, Dr Cheddi Jagan was both the leader of the PPP and its General Secretary – and of course, president of Guyana.
With the government run along the neo-liberal lines of the IMF, with Jagan’s passing, the GS’s role became somewhat attenuated in practice, but with the traditional control over the PPP’s machinery still extant in its constitution. With the party now in the Opposition and its leader occupying the constitutional role of “Opposition Leader” – as Dr Jagan did for most of his career, it is expected that the party will resolve the dichotomy and potential leadership ambiguity between these two positions.
Over the years, the votes of the delegates at Congress, drawn as they are, from all the regions of Guyana, offer the party the opportunity to have a democratic input in the election of their leadership corps. From all indications and polls, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is clearly seen as the pre-eminent leader of the PPP at this stage. And his performance during the Budget debate simply served to confirm that role. While it would be of earth shaking import if he were not to receive the largest number of votes at the Congress, many hope the party would also revert to the situation that obtained until the death of Dr Jagan – that the political leader be coterminous with the party leader.
At this stage, it is rather trite to suggest that the PPP needs to develop a new cadre of young leaders. Bharrat Jagdeo is uniquely positioned to play the role of catalysing that development: young enough at fifty-two to understand the aspirations of youth but old enough to have experienced twelve years as president of Guyana. While he may have to temper his impatience with the unprepared that is often interpreted as “arrogance”, he yet represents the quest for excellence that Guyana need most of all.