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OUR CARIBBEAN: Presidential hopefuls for Guyana’s poll

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Presidential hopefuls for Guyana’s poll

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With the unanimous choice by its Central Committee this past Monday of a presidential candidate for Guyana’s forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is set to begin official campaigning later this month.
It will be a very challenging bid to retain state power for an unprecedented fifth consecutive five-year term.
The decision was in sharp contrast to tension-filled campaigning and open disagreements that also highlighted a new dimension in internal party democracy for the major opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).
Last month, the PNCR climaxed its campaigning with a presidential endorsement – by a majority of just 15 votes at a special convention – of a former brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), 65-year-old David Granger.
The PPP’s choice of long-serving general secretary, Donald Ramotar, 61, to lead the party’s slate of candidates for the 65-member parliament in elections expected in August, followed the surprising withdrawal of the three other contestants: Ralph Ramkarran (Speaker of Parliament since I992 – the year when the PPP returned to power after 28 years in opposition –), Clement Rohee (Minister of Home Affairs) and Gail Teixeira, former cabinet minister and current special political adviser to retiring President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Jagdeo has been credited by the international financial institutions and major donors for being instrumental in Guyana’s significant social and economic progress over the past I3 years. That includes two years when he assumed that office following the resignation, due to ill health, of the now deceased Janet Jagan.
The constitution bars a president from more than two successive five-year terms. Jagdeo is known to have been an influential behind-the-scenes supporter of Ramotar as the PPP’s candidate.
Now the presidential candidates of both the PPP, which governs with a civic component (hence the acronym PPPC), and the PNCR must contend also against the comparatively small Alliance for Change (AFC) which presents itself as “the alternative” to those two old, traditional thoroughbreds in Guyanese party politics.
For the first time, all three parties will be led into a national election by three new candidates, including the AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan.
A 50-year-old lawyer, Ramjattan, like the AFC’s leader, Donald Trotman (also a lawyer), had defected as a parliamentarian before the last 2006 general election – he from the PPP, and Trotman from the PNCR, both proclaiming “time for change”.
They formed the AFC and won five of the 65 seats, with eight per cent of the votes, in the 2006 elections for which Trotman was then the party’s presidential candidate.
The incumbent PPPC had 36 seats and approximnately 55 per cent of the votes, and the PNCR, 22 seats, or 34 per cent.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), on which both the PPPC and PNCR are represented under an independent chairman, has given the assurance that all arrangements would be in place for the poll.