Jagdeo faces a fight

Jagdeo faces a fight
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Fighting to ensure the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) does not win a fifth consecutive term in office amidst widespread allegations of runaway corruption and links to the underworld, a major opposition coalition is to be offered to Guyanese voters this week ahead of general elections expected in the fall.

To be led by retired Brig. Gen. David Granger, 65, a former Guyana Defense Force commander and respected historian, the Partnership For National Unity comprising the main opposition People’s National Congress (PNC), the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and at least two other small parties has pledged to do all it can to unseat the PPP for power after 19 consecutive years in office and amidst mounting allegations that its major players are siphoning off millions from a string of development projects now underway in the country.

For now officials say, no prime ministerial candidate will be named on the coalition’s slate for the 65 seats in parliament. The plan is to allow interested groups, including other political parties and civil society combinations, to join the coalition and even nominate a prime ministerial candidate as well as offer others for parliamentary seats.

A multiparty coalition in neighboring Suriname took a similar route for mid last year’s general elections, allowing former military strongman Desi Bouterse to be its presidential candidate but permitting the private sector to nominate and seal off the position of vice president.

Rupert Roopnarine, one of the main opposition players behind the coalition and a former WPA leader, said he hopes the country will appreciate the “historic magnanimity of the PNC” to combine with other groups in the interest of national unity specifically for the sake of unseating the PPP which has already said it is confident of keeping the group in opposition for another five years.

“The PNC has been around for more than 50 years and people have to understand what has happened here.The name PNC will not be on the ballot for the first time in decades. This is an historic concession for national unity. The PPP will never agree to something like that,” Roopnarine said at the weekend.

Party voting symbols including the PNC’s palm tree and the WPA’s bell, will disappear for this year’s polls, merging into the symbol of an outstretched hand, but the former legislator says there are still issues to be worked out over the next four weeks.

The move by the coalition to get its house in order comes just days after GECOM, the elections commission, said it was getting ready for an October-November poll, even though 50,000 identification- or voter-registration cards are still to be collected by potential voters and as all parties complain about voters getting difficulty obtaining birth certificates and other documents with accurate information.

The PPP has already named Donald Ramotar, a certified economist and general secretary of the University of Guyana to be its candidate, as incumbent Bharrat Jagdeo is barred constitutionally from running for a third consecutive term.

Party officials say he is likely to hover in the background pressing political buttons, but that it is unclear whether he will take up any official position.