Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 November 2021, 20:25 by Denis Chabrol
by GHK Lall
My earlier position that Mr. Aubrey Norton is in front in the, sometimes, tense PNC leadership horserace is now confirmed. Things will only get tenser and more testing for him from here. December 11th could be both a long road to travel and a high mountain to scale. Before proceeding I make clear (again) my position, I write to share more as an interested Guyanese, and a neutral PNC watcher; just as in the PPP. I have no choice to make, no vote to give. But I can and will tell of how I foresee the lay of the land ahead.
Candidate Norton, now the confirmed leader of the pack, has his work cut out for him, with some pluses, and some huge minuses. Regarding the negatives, he is subject to some forces beyond his control. Nevertheless, they are still within his grasp to influence in his favor, by maintaining his internal appeal.
To begin with, his frontrunner status reflects the sentiments and anguish of party faithful and brethren, which is to his advantage. He must make their pain his pain, as any diligent and skillful political infighter would do, and pull off successfully. His assurances would be that there would be no letting up, no letting down. For this is what is longed for, this is what is felt will make a difference within the party, and where it counts most, in the bigger national picture. Mr. Norton has to be a fighter now, but demonstrate that he has a lot of the healer in him. The party is going to need this by the time the scrapping is over. It could get ugly.
Because this is what the disgruntled are looking for: a fighter in more than words, at least in the vigor of a sturdy spirt that may not be revered, but will neither be taken for granted nor dismissed. But, more tellingly, one to be feared. I think that, when these are taken together, this is Mr. Norton’s calling card and trump card. The latter is a linguistic choice, but it could take on the dogged intensity of the American political leadership equivalent.
Obviously, this makes Aubrey Norton the man to be most watched from now on; and this is whether he wins, loses, or draws. A school of thought is that it does not matter for the PPP which PNC leadership candidate succeeds, so effective is the lockdown it has over this country, so confident it is that it can deal with him (more on this later on) on its own terms, starting from the inside of the PNC. Nonetheless, I detect that the party’s brain trust apparatus (all of one) has an order of preference for the winner. It does not favor or feature Mr. Norton highly, far from it. And this is where his troubles start to coalesce.
As I read this, Candidate Norton has to battle on two fronts. His political competition within the party holds key organizational cards, management and control cards, among others of lesser weights. They will not step aside, and allow him to run away with the leadership prize. Thus, it is quite likely that the usual internal party dynamics that surface on occasions like these could be part of the obstacles he must face and overcome. Said differently, the intrigues and machinations that characterize party Congresses (the PPP is no exception, nor Guyana unique) could be brought to bear to his disadvantage. Since there is no easy way to put this in a more nuanced manner, here goes: he must do whatever it takes to hold on to his lead. Horse trade, wheel and deal, form strategic alliances, and always with tactical eyes responsive to the cast of characters. In the shifting sands of party emotions and party loyalties, Mr. Norton has an opportunity now to manifest how much of a negotiator and bargainer he is, the depths of his confidence building prowess, and the kind of inspiring leadership he is capable of providing in the clinch. This is his crucible of test, the first crucial one of many. Overpower adversaries, and overcome the environment gathering steam against him, and he is as good as in the winner’s enclosure. But not until the last vote is officially accounted for, and read into inerasable and irreversible scrolls.
At this juncture, it is appropriate to revisit something hinted at earlier: how the PPP is absorbing and viewing this, meaning, Mr. Norton’s formidable emerging status. This is the external component of his worries; it was one that the PNC has some hard memories of, given that its own people failed to answer the bell in some elections stations, because they had been reached and touched by the PPP. The PPP has enough assets to turn people away from Mr. Norton, and it will do so, no matter how much it takes. Further, I think that Exxon has to be alarmed by what Aubrey Norton as leader of the PNC embodies for its own affairs in Guyana.
Hence, I think it can lend resources to the PPP to diminish his present numerical surge and stature, dilute his appeal, and weaken his prospects. In a word -money, and lots of it. It is why I said earlier that Mr. Norton must be wise to the ways of his opponents, and vigilant to the high likelihood of what menaces his chances. He does not want to be the victim of a political St Valentine’s Day massacre on December 11th.
The 2020 elections is as good a lead indicator as any, and he must pay heed to hold his enemies close. And always, his friends closer, until he is past the finish line, when a whole series of new challenges are his to own. As I see it, the PNC leadership race is his to lose.