Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon has announced his intention to contest for leadership of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNC/R). He will be running against other party stalwarts Aubrey Norton and Dr Richard Van West-Charles.
The announcement was made on Harmon’s Facebook Page on Wednesday, when he updated his cover photo with a poster which reads “Joseph Harmon…Candidate for Party Leader-PNCR”. On the poster, Harmon also promised “Leadership with a vision and compassion”.
While Norton and Charles have confirmed that they will be running for the top post, current Leader David Granger has repeatedly dodged the question on whether he would run for re-election.
Granger, however, had announced that he has taken a leave of absence from the Party effective September 1, but he did not indicate for how long.
Norton, who had challenged for leadership of the party and lost to Granger in 2014, now says there is need for a new political culture.
Charles, the son-in-law of Party Founder Forbes Burnham, is currently coming in for much criticism after it was discovered that, as head of GWI, he spent over $85M in parties over a two-year period. The former CEO has since justified the spending by claiming that it was an “investment” in staff.
Party Chairperson and current acting Leader Volda Lawrence also did not indicate whether she would contest the election. Lawrence is currently before the courts on a number of electoral fraud-related charges.
Reports indicate that the PNC’s long-overdue biennial congress has been set for December 11, with November 11 set for the nomination of the candidates.
PNC’s last biennial congress was in 2018, when Granger was returned unopposed as Leader of the party.
In total, Granger led the party into three General and Regional Elections – 2011, 2015 and 2020; the latter two in coalition with the Alliance For Change as the APNU/AFC. He also led the coalition through two Local Government Elections in 2016 and 2018, while in Government between 2015 and 2020.
Additionally, Granger was elected PNCR Leader consecutively at the party’s 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Biennial Delegates’ Congresses.
Granger, who left office in August 2020, after a five-month battle in Guyana for democracy to prevail, has been facing pressure from within the party, and has suffered a sharp drop in popularity, over the loss of the 2020 General and Regional Elections after just one term in office.
Admitting that he is aware of this pressure during a PNC-organised programme, Granger had contended that he is not afraid of a leadership challenge.
Following the loss at the 2020 polls, the PNC-led APNU faction of the coalition has been falling apart, as two of the five parties that constituted the partnership resigned, citing the dictatorial nature of the PNCR. Several senior and longstanding party members have also left the PNCR, blaming Granger for the fallout within the party, after he had handpicked the list of Opposition Members of Parliament and excluded seasoned party leaders.
The division further widened after some members of the PNCR’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) criticised Granger in July for adding two new “shell” parties to the APNU, and accusing him for wanting to run the party as a “one-man show”. Arising out of that situation was a No-Confidence Motion brought against Granger by the party’s Georgetown district.
The PNCR Leader, during a subsequent edition of his weekly programme in July, acknowledged that there might be some opposition towards him within the party. At the time, he claimed to be unaware of any NCM against him within the PNC.
“Right now, I don’t discount the fact that there might be some opposition to me,” Granger had contended.
But amid this internal power struggle, there has been mounting pressure for the party to host its biennial congress for new leadership to elected. But the PNCR Leader has cited COVID-19 as the reason behind the delays.