The selection of Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo by the Central Committee of the PPP as its nominee for Opposition Leader seals that party’s fate in opposition for decades to come, unless the APNU+AFC coalition underperforms or unravels. The PPP has been shattered by defeat, its leadership disgraced by corruption and it has lost the sympathy of the international community through abuse, corruption and the refusal to hold local government elections.
With no intention by the ruling clique of giving up power, the return of its younger MPs and a sprinkling of new faces to Parliament, would be mere window dressing. This new generation of leaders stands no chance of influencing policy to rebuild the PPP or unite the country. The recently expressed views by Dr. Vindhi Persaud as to the way forward for the PPP in her recently published email and its rejection symbolise the impotence that this group will face.
Dr. Jagdeo’s name emerged initially from among the ruling clique in the Executive Committee. In the contest between Dr. Jagdeo and Mr. Ramotar at the Central Committee, Donald Ramotar received only 9 votes of 35 voting members. It must have been a hugely embarrassing. Being fought down by Dr. Jagdeo, his mentor, at whose instance, and not through popular sentiment, he became the presidential candidate in 2011, would have been a bitter pill to swallow, especially since he is the immediate past president. [Correction: since publication I have clarified that Mr. Donald Ramotar’s support amounted to about nine persons, if so many, but no vote actually took place. The support for Dr. Jagdeo was so overwhelming that the election was by acclamation.]
Worse was the virtual abandonment of him by the Central Committee of which he was general secretary for 15 years. Mr. Ramotar ignored the fact that Dr. Jagdeo’s insatiable ego cannot be satisfied by fraternal considerations or rational calculations. In any event, Mr. Ramotar apparently did not realize that with the loss of two elections and Dr. Jagdeo’s grip on the leadership, his political career was over.
Mr. Ramotar long ago ceded authority to Dr. Jagdeo. He therefore has no one but himself to blame for his loss of influence in the Central Committee. Mr. Ramotar may accept the humiliation of rejection and soldier on with diminished influence, likely without a Parliamentary seat, as he would have to bear the embarrassment of an immediate past president sitting at third place behind Dr. Jagdeo and Mr. Rohee. He would justify continued low-level activism by deluding himself that he is maintaining party unity. This has always been the answer to his failure to respond to Dr. Jagdeo’s most egregious behavior. This silent approbation allowed serious schisms to arise within the Party, which remained unaddressed. The worst was the resignations of Ramjattan and Nagamootoo that led directly to the PPP’s loss of power. This damage to the PPP, Mr. Ramotar’s ill-fated decision to seek the candidacy for president in 2011, despite Dr. Jagdeo’s support and the ruling clique’s rejection of a national unity government, have together brought the PPP to its knees.
In his early fifties, Dr. Jagdeo will retain his hold on the leadership for at least the next 20 years, while still trying to secure a third term. He never intended to stand aside despite his promises. It means that an entire generation of younger leaders will have no chance of aspiring to leadership or influencing the party’s direction. Since the spoils of office are no longer available to be granted or taken away, there would be a limit to the success of his methods of leadership. In any event his continued grip on power and greed for the limelight will smother younger leaders and denude the PPP of talent, leaving it with sycophants and as an ineffective opposition force. Eventually, he will again choose the next leader.
By electing Dr. Jagdeo, the Central Committee seems prepared to abide by his methods of abuse, control and sycophancy. He sees himself as the most gifted and charismatic intellect and strategist who will save the PPP and Guyana. His and the leadership’s vision is of a ceaseless ‘struggle’ against the ‘PNC’ and ‘rigged elections’ and no compromise with the ‘de facto government.’ Primary to the strategy will be a defence of his record – what he would pompously refer to as his legacy. He will also try to convince supporters that they were robbed thereby perpetuating a sense of victimhood. This will ensure the persistence of the national ethnic contest. Exploited so effectively in the campaign, the PPP no doubt now sees as the strategy of choice.
The PPP has made, arguably, the most egregious blunder in its entire history by failing to implement Cheddi Jagan’s ‘shared governance’ or ‘winner does not take all’ policies in political conditions in 2011 where it could have been easily sold to its supporters. The PPP would have had to make fundamental concessions and share power in circumstances of equality where it would not ‘dominate or be dominated’ – a policy also advocated by Jagan. The national unity thereby created would have transformed Guyana and revolutionized our politics. Our nation would once again have been able to aspire to 1950 and bring within reach our motto of ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny.’ But President Ramotar had made it plain in 2011 that power sharing ‘would not happen.’ The ruling clique of the PPP has deliberately killed the dream of unity and is on its way to Parliament to bury it.