By Annan Boodram
The continual pushing back of the naming of a presidential candidate by the PPP seems to signal a dilemma of almost unsurmountable proportions. As Freddie Kissoon and others have indicated, the Donald (Ramotar) seems to be the favored one of the Jagdeo clique. Naturally it would be expected that the President would have easily prevailed and that the Donald would already have been campaigning. But clearly that has not happened. Why?
To begin with the PPP constitution does not address the process of the selection of a presidential candidate. When Cheddi Jagan was both leader and General Secretary his elevation to candidate status was automatic. Janet’s was mired in controversy and Jagdeo was a supposedly non-threatening compromise that was to enable Freedom House to call the shots, a strategy awesomely backfired.
Via a process of micro management, Jagdeo not only took control of the government away from Freedom House, but asserted his ’power’ over the old guard to the extent that he publicly insulted the matriarch, Janet, and silenced the other stalwarts by making them financially beholden to him. Those who were not financially beholden were easily sidelined, Moses Nagamootoo and Navin Chanderpaul being the two with the highest profiles. As I had mentioned previously, had Freedom House spoken to Jagdeo’s batchmates at Patrice Lumumba University, it would have known that the Bharrat had returned to Guyana with the expressed intention of both becoming president and minimizing the power of the old guard.
In fact, it has been argued in some circles that in his desire to continue to hold on to power Jagdeo would have been entering into an agreement with the PNC to suspend the constitution so he would be eligible for a third term. Whatever the grounds for such speculation, the rumor mills seems to be working overtime, to manufacture scenarios under which a constitutional crisis would be created and Jagdeo and Corbin would collaborate on ensuring that Jagdeo continues in power for a while longer supposedly until certain things kick in, including obtaining the money from Norway, supposedly providing additional scope for the PNC’s disarray to intensify or for the old guard/Burnhamites to take control and alienate potential moderate supporters and those disenchanted with PPP, and enabling the PPP to ensure that its core support is appropriately buttressed and ready to swing into action. By then also supposedly the Donald would either have consolidated his position or Jagdeo’s protégé, Robert Persaud, would have been sufficiently elevated thereby allowing Jagdeo to become Guyana’s Putin. Of course, somewhere in all of this is the apparent disregard of the public pronouncements of both Jagdeo and Corbin that the former is not interested in contravening the constitution to hold on to power nor is he interested in another term and that the latter is neither interested in collaborating with Jagdeo in any constitutional crisis scenario nor is he interested in being the presidential candidate of the PNC. Also there are the assumptions that both Jagdeo and Corbin would get their respective parties and those parties MPs to line up behind them. And, of course, no one seem to know with any certainty what is in this for Corbin or the PNC. Power sharing? Not according to the PPP’s public pronouncements on this issue, although the AFC may want to think that this could be a measure to exclude it from the reins of power, given that that ‘third party’ seems quite confident of victory in 2011.
Now, with the current impasse between GAWU and GUYSUCO, Freedom House has not only been flexing its political muscle but also sending a clear message that, given that Jagdeo’s days are numbered, the old guard is beginning to reassert itself. And this could be interpreted as not boding well for the Donald. After all it must not be forgotten that the Doanald obtained the position of General Secretary by default; it was foisted upon him after all other credible candidates turned it down. Thus, quite clearly no one in the echelons of the PPP power structure ever imagined the Donald as presidential material. Instead he was seen as the consummate party loyalist. Thus in announcing his presidential candidacy he stepped out of character and that must surely have incensed Freedom House.
Now that Jagdeo’s hold on the lid is loosening, Freedom House must surely be exploring its options. And it would seem that the two viable candidates are Ralph Ramkarran and Moses Nagamootoo. There is little doubt that were the party membership allowed to vote for the presidential candidate, Moses would win hands down. But with decision being left in the hands of the power structure, some commentators were of the view that Moses stood no chance. However, if one were to analyze the makeup of the power structure one would realize that such a conclusion is not a foregone one.
For one, the central committee is dominated by party loyalists and old guards, with only a handful being the President’s men. Ditto for both the Secretariat and the Executive Committee. And with fear of presidential backlash gradually diminishing as election draws closer, Moses and his backers may well fancy his chances of tying up the nomination. For while Ralph is a tenable candidate not only does he not possess the passion for the post as Moses does, but Ralph has neither the grass roots popularity nor the cross over appeal of Moses. And unless a backroom deal is in the making Moses should easily outvote Ralph in both the Central committee and the Executive Committee.
So the million dollar is this: does the Bharat, who has outwitted, delimited and diminished Freedom House for most of his presidency, have one last cunning strategy up his sleeve or will the old guards succeed in wresting back total control?