There are mixed views that there could be a power struggle in the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for its presidential candidacy in Guyana’s 2020 general elections, following Tuesday morning’s Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling that effectively bars two-time president Bharrat Jagdeo from running a third term.
Political analyst, Dr. Henry Jeffrey said the judgement by the regional court is good for Guyana because Jagdeo would be unable to attract multi-racial support. “For the PPP, I think if they are going to strategise, it is a blessing for them too because I do not believe Mr. Jagdeo is capable of mobilising anyone across the racial divide,” Jeffrey said.
While the former Guyanese leader appeals to his traditional East Indian support base and has in recent times been citing the need for the PPP to attract Afro-Guyanese supporters, Jeffrey said that political party now has a chance to find someone with cross-racial appeal with the right policies and programmes. “They won’t have the baggage of Mr. Jagdeo that every minute he opens his mouth, people will say why you didn’t do this or why this happened or he would have to make funny statements that he has done more for Black people and all that nonsense,” he said.
In that regard, Political Scientist Freddie Kissoon said Jagdeo would have to fade out of prominence if his party is to win the next general elections. “The presidential candidate has to distance himself from Jagdeo. If the PPP is going to win the election, there is a five, six percent electorate outside there that is not going to vote for Jagdeo. They have made up their minds against Jagdeo and they will want someone other than Jagdeo in the driving seat of the PPP so the presidential candidate is going to be driven by necessity to distance himself from Jagdeo,” he said.
Jeffrey acknowledged that Jagdeo, as an experienced politician and General Secretary, might seek to manipulate who would become the presidential candidate, but should the party win the general election he would be unable to puppet the president because he would have less access to resources than the President. “I do not believe that if the PPP chooses a sensible candidate that he would be able to manipulate that person all of the time. It’s not going to happen. If they win and the person gets presidential office, it will all change and I believe that is what is going to happen,” said Jeffrey who served as a minister in the People’s Progressive Party under the presidencies of Cheddi and Janet Jagan and Jagdeo.
In that regard, Kissoon warned that if the PPP puts a “mediocre candidate who is a surrogate to Jagdeo, it’s going to seriously dent the PPP’s chances in 2020”.
Calling the absence of term limits in China, Russia and Turkey as a shift towards autocracy, Political analyst Jeffrey argued that eventually it would not matter who eventually becomes the president. Asked whether he forecast a power struggle in the PPP, Jeffrey said Jagdeo has sufficient power in the party to pick someone he prefers. “I think he has enough authority to get who he wants and the people who want to get there would know that he has the authority so they will play to him,” Jeffrey said.
Political Scientist Kissoon predicts there would be a power struggle in the PPP because Jagdeo has already asserted that he would not step down as General Secretary, a situation he said would cause friction.”This verdict is going to turn the PPP topsy-turvy. I think there are people waiting to oust Jagdeo and they were waiting on the verdict. Once the verdict was in favour of Jagdeo, they would have rallied around Jagdeo. Now they know that he can never be the president again, theyare
“The person who is going to be the presidential candidate in 2020 should have some kind of jurisdictional attitude to lead the party. You can’t have a man contesting the leadership of a country and he is not leader of his party,” said Kissoon, a former University of Guyana political scientist.
The PPP, he added, would now be shaken by Jagdeo to suit his temperament because he knows he would be unable to contest the presidency.
Similar to Jeffrey, Kissoon is of the view that the CCJ judgement is good for Guyana because it removes the possibility of an authoritarian leader assuming the presidency again. “Outside of the Burnham-Rodney criticism, I don’t think we have had a President who has been intolerant of criticism and seeks to either jail, victimize or persecute his critics as Jagdeo,” Kissoon said in reference to late President Forbes Burnham’s role in the assassination of Working People’s Alliance co-leader Dr. Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980.
Kissoon said, while Jagdeo’s political longevity would eventually wane especially since he could not be reelected again, the PPP would have to be careful who it picks. “I don’t think we could dismiss out of hand that the PPP would lose the election. Therefore, that person who becomes the presidential candidate will want to assert him or herself,” he said.
United States-based Guyanese Political Science Professor, David Hinds said the upholding of the presidential term limit now allows the PPP to search for another presidential candidate. “They now have an opportunity to look beyond Bharrat Jagdeo. In some respects Jagdeo is good for the PPP, in many respects he is bad for the PPP. It’s the kind of leader in which you have that sharp divide and I think this gives the PPP an opportunity to look for fresh and new leadership,” he said.
He agrees with Kissoon that one of the problems that some people have with the PPP is Jagdeo’s personality, and the CCJ judgement now allows the PPP to again “situate itself in the mainstream of Guyanese politics”.
Against the background of Jagdeo stating at the weekend that he would remain General Secretary and a member of the next government if his party wins, Hinds said the PPP would have to select a strong leader. “If you have a strong leader who is not going to call the shots from behind the scenes, then that makes a difference but if you do not have a strong leader, this term limit thing doesn’t matter,” he said.
Professor Hinds stressed that the PPP would have to find someone who would not lead from behind the scenes.