Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
In the ongoing opinion tracking poll being conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) by this writer, supporters of the opposition PPP express severe disappointment that former President and current opposition Leader Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo will not be the party’s Presidential nominee for the 2020 general and regional elections. They feel Jagdeo’s disqualification as likely PPP Presidential nominee was orchestrated by the ruling coalition (APNU+AFC) forces that are fearful of a potential Jagdeo’s nomination. The poll finds that Jagdeo is the most popular political figure in the country, and he would have handily defeated the incumbent coaltiion. The coalition made its intention known that it wanted to disqualify Jagdeo from seeking the Presidency recognizing that his non-candicacy wuld severely weaken the PPP. Jagdeo is not only popular in the party’s traditional (Indian/Amerindian) base, he also has traction among non-supporters of the PPP. Because of his youth, experience, and likeability, supporters of the PPP say they want Jagdeo to continue to play a leading role in the party and to guide and help prepare the nominee for the 2020 elections.
Party supporters near unanimously had supported Jagdeo for the 2020 Presidential nomination.
Most of the business community, party supporters and even some coalition supporters are convinced that Jagdeo would have crushed the APNU+AFC coalition in general elections. They believe that the coalition has been fearful of a Jagdeo Presidential candidacy, and, as such, moved the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to knock him off the ballot after the Guyana courts affirmed he could run for President again. The CCJ overturned the Guyana courts’ ruling that Presidential term limit is unconstitutional without a referendum thwarting a Jagdeo return to the Presidency.
According to the poll, a majority of Guyanese express the view that the ruling of the CCJ was biased and not in keeping with established practices in democratic countries that tend to hold referendums (empowering voters) on important constitutional matters (like amendments). Almost everyone feels voters are sovereign (supreme) over the parliament disagreeing with the CCJ’s ruling. They say the voters should make the decision on term limits and want the matter to put to a national vote.
The findings of the poll reveal that the ruling coalition is extremely unpopular with rising crime and the downward economy. Business persons complain of declining revenues and consumers complain about rising prices and their inability to make ends meet. Almost everyone said that if Jagdeo were in charge of the economy, it would not have been in the present parlous state. They describe him as “boss” on economic matters and as the person to turn around the slumping economy.
On Dr. Jagdeo’s future role in the party given that he cannot seek the Presidency, respondents note that he has rescued and rebuilt the party since the defeat of 2015 and has held it together till now. They also noted that he led the party to a landslide victory at the 2016 local elections. They fear that without his presence, the party would be severely weakened and at a disadvantage against the coalition in 2020. Thus, they say that even though Jagdeo has been barred from running as President, he should continue to play a leading role in the party preparing it for the local government elections due later this year and the general elections by May 2020.
However, the poll finds that with Jagdeo off the ballot, the PPP is experiencing a serious challenge in selecting a Presidential nominee, and it has become a distraction to the critical socio-economic issues facing the country. Supporters want the Presidential selection to be made quickly and smoothly so that the party can focus on the elections.
The fact that Jagdeo cannot seek the Presidency has created a dilemma for the PPP in choosing a nominee. Had he been eligible to run, there would not have been any opposition to his candidacy from within the party. But now that he can’t run, several potential candidates have expressed an interest to be the nominee. With regards to who should be the Presidential nominee, while several names (like Charles Ramson Jr, Priya Manickchand, Gail Texeira, Dr. Vindya Persaud, Donald Ramotar, Clement Rohee, Shyam Nokta, among others) are mentioned in the public domain as a potential nominee, they lack political traction among party’s rank and file. Only three potential candidates have significant traction among the party membership and supporters: Irfaan Ali, Dr. Frank Anthony, and Anil Nandlall. With no dark horse in the offing, more than likely, one of these three will become the candidate as their names have repeatedly come up in the ongoing NACTA survey. But none of the three has overwhelming support. Voters commented that while they see a lot of Irfaan and Nandlall in the media and on the ground in the grass roots base of the party and in also staking out positions on various issues impacting the nation, they have not been seeing much of Dr Frank Anthony or hearing his views on issues. They like Irfaan and Nandlall for aggressively confronting the ruling coalition on almost every issue impacting the country. They say Dr. Frank has been too passive and timid and not taking strong position on issues and would like to see him be more outspoken.
The poll also queried voters on other matters. The findings will be released in another report.