As the race heats up for the selection of a presidential candidate for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is not ruling out the possibility of a newcomer to governance emerging as the candidate.
The PPP General Secretary was asked about what to expect from the process after a recent Executive Committee meeting. Contrary to previous reports, Jagdeo affirmed that he did not rule out the possibility that a candidate without Cabinet experience could make the cut.
“I saw (sections of the media) identify people by name. I never did. I said its harder for new persons to function in the position, not that it’s impossible. Because they would not have had the exposure of being in the Cabinet, like I did.”
Indeed, Jagdeo had already served as a Junior Finance Minister, then Finance Minister, by the time he first became President in 1999. In addition, the former President had previously worked as an economist in the State Planning Secretariat.
“I was familiar with all the issues in the Cabinet, so it was easier for me to move seamlessly into the position,” Jagdeo noted. “But anyone would have a chance, whether you’re new or you’re old, whether you had been in the Cabinet or not. Once you meet the eligibility criteria, you would have a chance to present your candidature.”
Jagdeo also noted that his party has a history of using secret ballots. He pointed out that when this was not done, it was for a good reason. As it stands now, Jagdeo explained that secret ballots would only be used if there is more than one final candidate.
“We had consensus almost all the way through. We’ve never had to resort to balloting before. In 1997 (former President) Janet Jagan was chosen as President… and then in 2001 there was a consensus… in 2006, a consensus.”
“In 2011 we went there with several candidates, but before the voting took place the three other candidates withdrew their nominations. Ralph Ramkarran, Clement Rohee and Gail Teixeira. So we had a unanimous candidate. And 2015 again, we didn’t have another challenger. So it’s not true that we opposed secret ballots before.”
With the recent passage of a no-confidence vote against the Government, the Constitution stipulates that elections must be called within three months. As such, parties have either begun or intensified the task of identifying a presidential candidate.
In addition, the upcoming election has seen the emergence of new parties such as the Liberal and Justice Party (LJP) and the New and United Guyana (NUG) party, all hoping for a share in the electoral votes.
On December 21, 2018, the No-confidence Motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition PPP/C against the Government succeeded when former AFC Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
A total of 10 MPs had previously debated the motion, but when a vote of division was called, Persaud’s vote changed the numbers to 33 versus his colleagues’ 32 votes against the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
President David Granger has already committed to following the provisions outlined in the Constitution, facilitating early elections and engaging in dialogue with the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.