Would the new PNCR Leader bring his party closer to State power?

Dear Editor,
Guyanese were hoping that the PNCR internal election would have taken place on Saturday, December 11, 2021, as advertised. However, it was reported over one week ago that the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) had decided, in the interest of democracy and transparency, to postpone the polls until December 18, 2021. The PNCR election has attracted great public attention as never before. The prospect of capturing State power in the future depends heavily on the integrity of the election process and the choice of a visionary leader and supporting team.
The postponement of the election from December 11, 2021, to December 18, 2021, has given rise to speculation. Nominations for officeholders were conducted a month earlier and this should have given the CEC enough time to prepare the logistics, including ballot paper and list of delegates. There is apparently wrangling among party members. One candidate for leader asked, for example, that the PNCR General Secretary be removed from the process. Why? About two weeks ago three members of the Accreditation Committee resigned because they claimed a conflict of interest. And last week a candidate for leader, despite his initial exuberance, withdrew from the race. Do these happenings make way for the re-alignment of delegates’ votes for a particular candidate?
Based on previous election experience, critics wonder if the PNCR team can conduct a free and fair election, as proclaimed! Guyanese are watching this election closely as it would send a signal how close or far, is the PNCR from the democratic process. A clean election will allow for atonement for past misdeeds and remove some of the darkness that has haunted the party over electoral rigging at the national level. One way to mitigate any fear of electoral malpractice is for the CEC to invite election observers.
Whether the choice of Returning Officer is strategic is uncertain as his role in the 5-month post-election saga has hurt his standing as a GECOM Commissioner. One critic, Alvin Hamilton, wrote: “This man still posits that the Opposition did not lose the Guyana March 2, 2020 elections. He cannot bring himself, against incontrovertible evidence, to admit that the Opposition was engaged in repeated attempts to rig the said elections…” It was also reported that he was willing to have ex-CEO Keith Lowenfield submit his fictitious election results for consideration by GECOM. It is therefore with some measure of the uneasiness that Guyanese are critically analysing the PNCR election and its outcome.
Notwithstanding these reservations, whoever is chosen to lead the PNCR has a formidable task ahead. Once he decides to walk on the democratic track, he must sort out his party’s relationship with the smaller APNU affiliated parties, particularly the AFC which has indicated that it might leave the APNU coalition. The chosen leader has, among other things, to ensure that a competent opposition, inclusive of shadow ministers are kept abreast with issues and policies. He must create a coherent vision for his party and for the country. There are several other challenges facing the new leadership of the PNCR, including the urgent need to repair his party’s battered national and international image particularly due to the 5-months’ post-election fiasco, which was accentuated by a nebulous claim that the Russians interfered with the 2020 National and Regional Elections.
It would be interesting to know if delegates have a good grasp of each candidate’s political philosophy, perspective, and vision. Here are some teething issues: (1) Since PNCR operatives have been accusing and demonising Caricom leaders of complicity with the PPP/C just because they support free and fair election results, would the new leader apologise to Caribbean leaders whom they have vilified? (2) Would the new leader apologise to the nation for his party’s leadership behaviour during the 5-months’ post-election saga? (3) Would the new leader recognise the legally elected PPP/C Government, a status recognised by 100 countries, including all western democracies: the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, European Union, as well as by international organisations such as Caricom, Organisation of American States, and the Commonwealth? (4) Would the new leader approach the US authorities to restore visas to PNCR operatives who were deemed by the US to be hostile towards democracy? (5) Would the new leader denounce and reject racism and violence as political tools?
The new PNCR leader and team must address urgently the above and other issues if they are going to enhance their chances of winning State power in the future.

Dr Tara Singh