The postponement of the PNC’s virtual Congress to accommodate their leadership elections could only mean that there were grave concerns by one or more candidate about the bona fides of the arrangements.
That the postponement was for only one week signalled that the concerns were certainly not about “logistics”, as some claimed. Most likely, it would have involved fumigating committees that would be vetting the voters and counting the votes. Three members of the Accreditation Committee were already forced to resign, indicating that fraternal relations became frayed early on.
During the 2011 “live” Congress elections that ended with David Granger being catapulted as Leader of the PNC, there were claims that numerous voters were unregistered, while registered delegates, especially from Reg 10, were not recognised. The final counting of just over 1200 votes was delayed for hours, several candidates staged walk-outs over claimed chicanery, and a bullet was even fired. David Granger supposedly pipped Carl Greenidge by 15 votes after several demands for recounts had to be accommodated. Even though some of the candidates walked away from the PNC, the ones who stayed know of what may occur during the elections – even on the new Dec 18 date.
One contentious matter that is sure to arise in the event that Joseph Harmon does not emerge as leader has already been telegraphed by his insistence that he would still remain as Leader of the Opposition (LOO). He claims that this is mandated by the Guyana Constitution. However, he is clearly not au fait with the Constitution in general, or with its No Confidence Motions (NCM) in particular. We know how the PNC filibustered after the PPP’s NCM of Dec 21 2018, when they were in office with a 33-32 majority but still claimed that the PPP’s 33 votes, including that of Charandass Persaud, did not constitute a majority.
There is also a No-Confidence Clause that governs the tenure of the LOO: Article 184. This states, “Where one-third of the non-governmental members of the Assembly represent to the Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition no longer enjoys their confidence, the Speaker shall call a meeting of all the non-governmental members at which it shall be decided whether the LOO shall be removed from office.” Very simply, if, say, Aubrey Norton wins the Dec 11 race, all he has to do is lobby the PNC and AFC MPs in the Opposition to obtain one third of their 32 – eleven members – to test Harmon’s claim. One hopes the “Judicialization of Politics” would not be extended into internal party politics, and there would be no resort to the courts about what constitutes “one third of 32”.
In addition to the “Judicialization of politics” that was identified by two UWI lecturers who analysed our Guinness Book of Records March 2-Aug 2 elections, there is also a “Mediatization of Politics” that has surfaced. In this process, there has been a change in the symbiotic relationship between the traditional media and political parties. The logic of both institutions demanded they attempt to reach the widest possible audience, and, in so doing, would moderate their rhetoric – if not their policies – to accomplish this. With the ascendancy of social media that addresses echo-chambers, however, especially involving elements associated with the PNC, the logic has changed. They have directed a new incendiary rhetoric to the PNC’s African Guyanese base that push the candidates into extremist positions, while calling it “radical”. Ahead of the decision on the new GECOM CEO from the two candidates, for instance, they made it clear that Vishnu Persaud was unacceptable and must be rejected.
So, for the first time, after the Chairman of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh, cast her vote for Vishnu Persaud as its CEO – the three Opposition Commissioners called out their Chair and said, “The entire process was a travesty.” Evidently, if she had voted for their choice, it would have been flawless. Aubrey Norton and Joseph Harmon also openly denounced the Chair, whom their party had supported for the position. Norton bluntly declared, “We believe that the appointment was a collusion between the Chairman of the Elections Commission and the PPP Commissioners to put a PPP hack as Chief Election Officer. We will oppose it.” Calling it “an obviously political decision”, Harmon said, “The Chairman of GECOM has shown that she cannot be impartial…”
To echo T&T’s Rowley, “This will not end well”.