Harmon will “consider” stepping aside as Opposition Leader under “right” circumstances
With the People’s National Congress Reform’s (PNCR) leadership race over and Aubrey Norton elected as leader of the party, former leadership contender Joseph Harmon said he would only consider stepping aside from the position of Opposition Leader under the right circumstances.
On the sidelines of the court appearance of former Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Tuesday, the Opposition Leader was asked about his future in the party. In addition to losing his bid for leadership of the party, Harmon was not elected to any of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) seats of the PNCR.
According to Harmon, however, this does not bother him since some his MPs are on the executive. Additionally, he noted that he can be co-opted unto the executive. This was done in August of 2020, when Harmon and Simona Broomes were co-opted into the CEC.
“The aftermath doesn’t change the fact. It’s the same situation basically that you had before, the same situation you have after. The fact of the matter is that the Constitution provides for the position of Leader of the Opposition and there is a process by which any change of that position will take place.”
“And that’s a constitutional process, so that the election in the PNCR does not change the setting in the Parliament itself. The Leader of the Opposition is representative of over 218,000 persons who went to the electorate and voted. So that is my mandate. The mandate of the leader of the PNC is a separate mandate altogether,” Harmon said, expressing his belief that the Opposition Leader and PNCR Leader should work together.
Asked forthright about whether he would consider stepping aside if called upon by his party, Harmon noted that he would only consider this under the right circumstances. These “right circumstances” would only occur if his presence in the National Assembly hampers the Opposition’s parliamentary performance.
“Not (a chance) that I see it… if in fact my situation, my sitting there makes it difficult for the Members of Parliament to be able to challenge the PPP and confront them at every level, then certainly I will consider it. So, it is a matter of our strength in the National Assembly, our ability to confront the PPP and their parliamentary agenda. That is what is important,” he said.
Harmon also emphasised that the only way he would support the recall of any current MP is based on their performance. However, Harmon was of the view that the Opposition’s current crop of MPs are doing a good job, hence no need for a recall.
Asked if he was concerned that his reluctance to relinquish the Opposition Leader position would cause divisions in the party, he said that he “doesn’t see that.” According to Harmon, while the people of the PNCR spoke when it comes to the elections in the party, the people of the country spoke when it comes to his position as Opposition Leader. It must be noted, however, that the Opposition Leader is not an elected position under Guyana’s closed list Proportional Representation (PR) system for electing members of the legislature.
Norton had secured a landslide victory at the PNCR’s 21st biennial congress, obtaining more than half of the 1280 votes cast. He got 967 votes; while Harmon obtained 245 votes and Van West-Charles received 64 votes.
Harmon had conceded prior to the official announcement of his loss and had congratulated Norton in a post on his Facebook page. He had also affirmed his commitment to fostering unity within the party.
When this publication had made contact with Harmon after the official announcement of results, he had reaffirmed his willingness to work with whoever is in charge of the party. Even then, however, Harmon had said that the results change nothing where his position as Opposition Leader is concerned.