Very interesting times lie ahead
The PNCR is engaged in a fascinating process of selecting its presidential candidate. It is a process that has brought a few surprises, and no doubt by the time it ends, will cause a few problems for the party.
Open competition for the party’s presidential candidate is a novel development in Guyana and one that is not consistent with the manner in which political parties are organized locally.
Not even in the so-called liberal parties in Guyana is there such open campaigning for the party’s presidential candidate.
The political parties in Guyana were never developed in the mode of parties in liberal democracies.
There was never any open competition for leadership; there was hardly any need for such contests.
The two main political parties emerged out of traditions that embraced strong political leadership.
Ironically, it was of course a leadership challenge that split the original PPP in two and created the competition between the PNC and the PPP that has had such tragic consequences for Guyana.
Since that split, the idea of maximum leader within both parties has remained unchallenged. That was until Forbes Burnham died and there was an aborted challenge to the leadership of Desmond Hoyte.
Today it seems as if there is a long line of potential successors in both the PPP and PNCR. They are lining up for leadership and power.
The PPP, however, is not breaking with its leftist orientation in so far as the process of selecting a presidential candidate is concerned. This decision will be made as all decisions are made, within the party.
The choice will be left to a small group of leaders within the party. There is, however, an interesting development of persons openly campaigning to have the party’s nod.
Over in the PNCR, the changes are more profound.
Not only is the contest for the party’s presidential candidate now in full swing, but persons are now even launching their campaigns overseas, which tends to suggest that what we are witnessing is a new development in local politics.
This is not just a simple battle for the party’s nod. It is now a full-blown campaign requiring, it seems, financial resources to be sustained. Already, also, we are seeing advertisements in the newspapers canvassing various candidates, a most interesting development considering that this is just an internal party contest.
We are also seeing the formation of factions within the party each supporting a different candidate.
What we have therefore is a liberal-type competition for the position of the party’s presidential candidate.
This is a fascinating development as it now seems as if there will be a highly competitive process involved.
The process, however, as we have seen, is not without controversy. There have been some complaints, but this too is not unusual in these types of campaigns.
One group in New York is complaining that some names were jettisoned from the list of persons nominated. So there is again the question as to whether what we will have is a free and fair contest.
Eventually other questions will be asked. Among those will be to what extent these contests for the party’s presidential candidate will divide the main opposition. Will the PNCR emerge stronger from this process or will it emerge weaker and divided?
Can a political party built on the concept of a maximum leader, suddenly transform itself into a party modeled along the lines of a liberal democratic party, in which anyone can aspire and contest for leadership and whereby persons are free to go and raise funds for their campaigns?
The latter has implications for the financial future of the party. It is not as if there is a continuous source of funds to accommodate this internal competition and then for next year’s general elections.
The same sources that are now being tapped for funds have to be tapped next year when every cent will be needed to match the billions that the PPP is going to throw into its election campaign.
It is not without coincidence that some of the candidates have chosen to launch their campaigns overseas. This is where the funds are believed to be.
But the overseas groups will also want assurances about the process of selecting the candidate and if they feel that the process is not going to be open and fair, they are not going to throw their hard-earned funds down the drain. They may not be comfortable with one person being the presidential candidate and another being the leader.
But what happens in the long run is far more important than the controversies that are going to emerge in the course of these campaigns for the party’s presidential candidate.
What remains to be seen is the extent to which free and open competition will be facilitated within the PNCR. What remains to be seen is the extent to which the PNCR can accommodate this idea of regular and vibrant contests for leadership.
Right now, of course, there is no contest for leadership, just for the party’s presidential candidate.
Liberal tradition can accommodate a presidential candidate who is different from the leader of the party, but it is not something that seems to fit into the general public’s understanding of local politics and is definitely not consistent with the manner in which our local political parties have been traditionally organised.