PNCR’s biennial Congress: Aubrey Norton secures landslide victory over rivals for PNCR leadership
– Harmon says he remains Opposition Leader
After weeks of intense campaigning and political sniping, the delegates of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) have elected longstanding party stalwart Aubrey Norton as their leader in a landslide win against Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and Dr Richard Van West-Charles.
According to the results announced by the party’s Chief Election Officer Vincent Alexander on Sunday, Norton secured a landslide victory having obtained over 75 per cent of the 1280 votes cast. He got 967 votes; while Harmon received 245 votes and Van West-Charles secured 64.
“Mr Norton is therefore poised to be declared and installed as Leader of People’s National Congress Reform in the new day,” Alexander said at the press conference, which was hosted by Christopher Jones, who had unsuccessfully contended for the PNCR Chairmanship.
This publication was unable to reach Norton on Sunday after the results were announced. However, he had offered a few words in an interview with the media a few hours after polls closed on Saturday evening. Norton had made it clear at the time what type of leader he would want to be. According to him, he will be an inclusive leader.
“During the campaign, I did say I intend to be inclusive. I intend to ensure that all the people in the party are involved in the management of the party. And I intend to live up to that. My opponents are expected to raise questions.”
“All I will say to my opponents is that we’ll work together… I don’t see this as a victory over Harmon or Van West-Charles. I see this as the party membership giving me the mandate,” Norton had said.
Meanwhile, Norton’s nearest rival, Harmon had conceded since Saturday evening and had congratulated Norton in a post on his Facebook page. He had also affirmed his commitment to fostering unity within the party.
“The delegates made their choice for PNCR leader… I respect the choice of the delegates of our party. I wish to congratulate Comrade Norton and want to extend good wishes and all success to the new leadership. Over the coming weeks, I am sure matters related to the new leadership will arise and I stand committed to the unity of the party as an ordinary member,” the Opposition Leader had contended in his statement.
When this publication made contact with Harmon after the official announcement of results on Sunday, he reaffirmed his willingness to work with whoever is in charge of the party. According to him, however, the results change nothing where his position as Opposition Leader is concerned.
“The delegates have made their choice. And whatever consequence comes out of those choices, we will have to live with that… (the results) mean nothing for my tenure as Opposition Leader. The Opposition Leader is a constitutional position and this is one party within the coalition. So it does not have any specific bearing on my tenure as Leader of the Opposition,” Harmon told this publication.
“I’m Leader of the Opposition and Mr Norton is leader of the party. I suppose at some point we will have to meet and discuss matters. Because I am there already. He is now arriving in that position. So, it’s his call really. But I’m really about cooperating and ensuring that the party is unified.”
The race for the Chairmanship of the party also turned into a convincing victory for team Norton, with APNU Member of Parliament (MP) Shurwayne Holder winning the position. He came out victorious having secured 407 votes – the highest amongst the 10 contesting for that post including some senior party members.
Holder’s closest rival was Member of Parliament and Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who at one point deputised for Harmon as Opposition Leader earlier this year. Forde could only secure 256 votes. Fellow MP Amanza Walton-Desir, who shadows the Foreign Affairs Ministry, also only mustered 217 votes against Holder.
Former Chief of Staff turned PNCR politician Gary Best was the only other challenger to reach triple figures, securing 156 votes. Christopher Jones, who serves as APNU/AFC’s Chief Whip in Parliament, secured 51 votes, while former Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon secured 36. Former Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry Simona Broomes mustered 13 votes.
In an interview with this publication following the announcement of the results, Holder noted that the results from the polls clearly demonstrate the will of the party. According to him, the party had believed for the last year that they were not being adequately represented.
“I’m happy to serve the people. For me, there are mixed feelings. What I’m looking at is that the real work now begins. The election phase is over. The real work now begins, to represent our people. The people felt over the last year that they’ve not been getting the kind of representation that they feel they should be getting from their party and opposition.”
“So that’s why I feel that they voted solidly for team Norton. Norton as the leader and myself as the Chair. They want people on the ground, in contact with them and can represent them. That’s why we got this big victory.”
According to Holder, this is not a personal victory but rather, a victory for the party. He noted that his immediate concerns include unifying the party and representing party supporters and the general public.
Additionally, the party’s new Treasurer is Mohamed Faaiz Mursaline. There are two spots for the post of Vice Chairman. The first was secured by Elizabeth Niles-Williams, who gained 470 votes, while Christopher Jones and Vinceroy Jordan have tied with 381 votes each for the second spot. According to Alexander, a decision will have to be taken on how to break this tie.
As it relates to the 15 members of the Central Executive Committee, Alexander explained that the count is still incomplete. There was a total of 123 candidates vying for these positions.
Just one day ahead of the congress, concerns had been raised by former Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, who was among those nominated for the leadership of the party. Not only did Greenidge confirm he rejected the nomination, he also expressed concern over the way the congress was being conducted.
According to him, the congress is just a changing of leadership rather than the introspection the party needs. According to Greenidge, who currently serves as the Advisor on Borders in the current Government, it is important that the party analyses its loss at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“The PNCR as a party has paid the price for failure to insist on the conduct of transparent and careful review of its performance in general and national elections. Today (Friday), on the eve of the congress, even taking account of the decision of the CEC to postpone the elections to 18th December in order to address some obvious weaknesses, too many questions still remain unaddressed.”
“Those areas are of concern to me because I have had first-hand experience of the abuse of the party’s election process. Many elements which generated concerns in 2011 and subsequently, are still in place,” Greenidge said in his statement.
Greenidge was also very critical of the way in which former party leader David Granger departed Guyana last week to seek treatment in Cuba. According to him, there was a lack of proper handover before Granger’s departure.
“I understand that the leader notified the Chairman of the party less than a week ago of his impending departure from the country. This is not the first party leader to have been ill whilst in office and he will not be the last,” Greenidge said.
“There should always be allowance for such a possibility but it is difficult to find another example of situation involving no transparent arrangements for handover of instruments and finances or of succession. The CEC which has been critical of the leader and called for the congress. For its impertinence, it seems to have been treated with utter contempt.”
Both Greenidge and former party Chairman Volda Lawrence, had declined nominations for leadership of the party, leaving Norton, Harmon and Van West-Charles to vie for leadership.