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‘Excuses’ by political parties could affect presidential debate

by Janelle Persaud

The staging of a presidential debate ahead of the May 11 General and Regional Elections could be affected by fresh demands and unwillingness by the major contesting political parties.

On Friday, at its weekly media briefing, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition revealed that it may be forced to review its willingness to participate in a presidential debate if one is not held for the Prime Ministerial Candidates.

“We believe that the Prime Minister is in effect going to be in the National Assembly; this is not a post to underestimate and to somehow minimise. We understand the importance of getting the presidential candidates to face off…but we believe we have a situation where we have the sharing of authority…” said Executive member Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, in justifying the coalition’s insistence of one debate before the other.

He was supported by AFC’s General Secretary, David Patterson who questioned the rationale for not having such a debate. “Why would electors not be interested in hearing prime ministerial candidates…they are a heartbeat away from being the president so I think for the sake of completeness  we should hear from the top candidates,” he pointed out.

However, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic is only willing to participate in one such debate, according to Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Persaud.

He told this news site this position was forwarded to the coalition through its Campaign Manager Raphael Trotman, who has indicated that a response will be forthcoming.

“The reason we are organising this debate is because we believe they are very useful in educating voters; it would be a great disappointment that these political parties continue to find excuses to not have them,” related Persaud.

Acknowledging the importance of a debate for the potential deputies, the PSC chair said in the very least, there should be at least one such debate. “The electorate deserves to hear their leaders address such concerns…they (political parties) need to consider the impact this can have on the campaign as well…it would be equal to a grand rally,” he opined. According to the businessman, the fact that thousands will be glued to the television sets during the debate is a a priceless opportunity that these parties should capitalise on.

He told Demerara Waves that a draft Memorandum of Understanding has been sent to both sides outlining the terms and conditions for their approval.

The debate is proposed to take the format of the regular US presidential debate; in studio, small audience and single person moderated. The private sector body said it is yet to decide on a moderator.

The proposed date is April 28 and it will be broadcast live across the country.