The Alliance for Change has made a political masterstroke in appointing Mr. Raphael Trotman as its Prime Ministerial candidate. There are important, numerous and timely benefits associated with this decision.
The AFC has become symbolized as a new brand in Guyanese politics, one reflecting multi-racial balance, new blood and a new decent and responsible approach to political discourse. The faces of this new brand have always been Trotman and Ramjattan and having done so well during the 2006 election, it seemed much too premature for this duo to not be the face of the AFC in the 2011 elections.
The original Ramjattan/ Holder ticket just was not sparkling in the same way as a Ramjattan/ Trotman ticket would. The AFC seemed to lack something and now with Trotman back on the ticket, the fortunes of the AFC are going to be improved as will no doubt the civility with which it conducts it campaign.
The AFC has allowed itself to be drawn into a mean- spirited campaign against the ruling Peoples Progressive Party. This is exactly what the PPP was hoping for because it could discredit the AFC as a decent political force. With Trotman back on board and given his own personal example of respectfulness, the AFC is likely to adopt a different approach and rise above the basic aspects of campaigning.
Trotman is therefore going to make a huge difference. His presence back on the ticket will see the middle class more comfortable now with the AFC and they are likely to have a much better chance at improving on their five seat haul in the last elections.
The AFC may have opted for Sheila Holder in the interest of gender balance. But what is more important in the context of Guyanese politics and particularly for a multiracial party is for there to be ethnic balance. Gender balance can take place as regards the overall composition of the slate but when it comes to the most pronounced images on the ticket, when it comes to who will be the Presidential and Prime Ministerial candidate, there is a need to have ethnic balance over gender balance.
There are already constitutional provisions which indicate that a party is supposed to have gender-balance in its representation on the list and in parliament and therefore all parties will have to have a certain amount of female candidate contesting the elections.
In the context of Guyana’s fractured politics, however, what is important, especially for multiracial parties is for the image of the party to reflect a multiracial image in the two critical positions.
The AFC may have been going ahead of itself by originally going for a female Prime Ministerial candidate. Many women’ will say that instead of a female Prime Ministerial candidate, playing second fiddle to a male, what is required is a female presidential candidate.
The delegates of the PNCR had an opportunity to appoint a female presidential candidate. The PPP did this in 1992. The PNCR took to the streets in a nasty campaign against the first female president of Guyana and this year they rejected the opportunity to appoint a female from their own ranks.
The PNCR has not yet named a prime ministerial candidate. But if they do appoint a female, some women are going to ask what is the significance having seen the party faithful overwhelmingly reject a female presidential candidate.
The constitution does not require a prime ministerial candidate to be named. But those parties wishing to distance themselves from the maximum leader concept have sought to emphasize a ticket comprising a president and a prime minister and in Guyana’s ethnically-fractured society, it is often prudent for the ticket to reflect a multi-racial balance over gender balance.
With Sheila Holder as its Prime Ministerial candidate and Khemraj Ramjattan as its presidential candidate, the AFC could claim that its ticket reflected both gender and ethnic balance.
But it lacked spark and appeal. The return to Trotman will inject this spark and just at the right time as the campaign gets going.
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