Kaieteur News – It was a committed supporter of the PNC, UG lecturer, Sherwood Lowe, who noted that PNC supporters over a period of time have come around to the acceptance that the PNC properly (his word) lost the March 2020 elections (see my column of Tuesday, September 28, 2021, “Amanza Walton-Desir versus Sherwood Lowe).
Mr. Harmon has been the consistent voice and fixed face of the claim that the PPP stole the election. Other PNC executives have echoed that sentiment but not with the consistency as Harmon. The two competitors – Aubrey Norton and Dr. Richard Van West-Charles (RVWC) have not banged away at that theme with the same vehemence.
If PNC supporters have come around to the reality that their party lost, then Harmon will be automatically invoked by them to be the one who preached victory to them. They will not blame Norton and RVWC as much as they will dump on Harmon. Such an invocation is bound to hurt Harmon at the December voting.
Harmon’s chances will be further weakened by his current status. He is in the opposition. He lost the 2020 election. “He” means him and David Granger. They were the two dominant faces in the 2020 campaign. Delegates normally show frustration at their party’s losers.
Delegates feel they must be punished for losing the government. The brunt of this frustration will fall on Harmon. He has to be an unhappy man at the moment because he should know that leaders who lose elections are generally at a disadvantage when they want to remain as leaders.
The current leader of the PNC, Mr. Granger, has emerged as the most unpopular leader in any major Guyanese political party. All the frustrations, dislikes and irascibilities PNC supporters have about Granger are transferred to Harmon. Two things about Harmon are stuck like scotch tape on the sleeve of PNC members. One is that he is seen as Granger’s deep, trusted lieutenant. The other one is that most Guyanese feel he has been identified by Granger to succeed him.
Is it too late for Harmon to pursue the Al Gore pathway? After Bill Clinton was shamed with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, Gore in his presidential campaign began to distance himself from Clinton, even though he served as Clinton’s vice president. Harmon has several opportunities to dissolve the “Granger replica” perception people have of him.
One is that he could concede that Vanessa Kissoon’s long suspension was wrong. Secondly, he could concede that Granger was nowhere near being a typical West Indian politician. He can start with those two. It makes no sense in practical politics for him to see his detachment from Granger as a betrayal. If he thinks so, then he should not want to be leader of the PNC because Granger is unpopular and delegates do not want a Granger protégé as leader of the PNC.
Harmon is certainly at a disadvantage. Norton had no high-profile position in the policy-making room in the APNU-AFC government. RVWC had one portfolio – CEO of GWI. Harmon is bound to come in for harsh criticism because the majority of Guyanese saw him as number two in government, and at times was almost number one.
Delegates from working class areas are not going to be kind to him. They are not nice to their leaders, who after being in government, come asking them to stay at the helm after they have lost. They will look at the performance when in office. Harmon failed to approve of the passage in the House of the amendment to the marijuana penalties.
Harmon failed to give African Guyanese a gift that subsequent generation would benefit from – upping the retirement age for the public service. NIS pension starts at 60. Public servants retire at 55. From Burnham to Hoyte to Harmon, this was never done. It has to pierce the soul of African Guyanese profoundly. In the 21st century to have a talented public servant – a well-trained police officer or a top accountant – retire at 55 is one of the unfair things in the world.
It would be interesting to see how Harmon reacts to criticism by Norton and RVWC on this issue. In a forthcoming column, I will return to the retirement age in an appeal to delegates to examine Harmon’s balance-sheet when he was both number two and number one.
Finally, delegates should ask RVWC if he has dual citizenship. This is natural since he lived a long time in the US. It is not an irrelevant issue if he becomes leader since at some point, he will have to enter parliament.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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