Working alongside and observing Dr. Jagdeo (then Mr. Jagdeo) at close range in the PPP for twenty years, I know that he must be enormously tickled at the controversy generated by the court action challenging the presidential two-term limit. He loves the attention and gets a thrill from everybody being confused. That he knew about it beforehand, I have no doubt. The several connecting links are there.
The last time Dr. Jagdeo’s name attracted public attention in relation to the presidency was on 20 and 21 March 2014. Reports were published in the Guyana Times and Guyana Chronicle, respectively, about a poll allegedly conducted by the Opposition, which the Opposition denied. The poll reportedly concluded that Dr. Jagdeo would have been the most popular presidential candidate for the 2011 elections. The PPP did not, at that time, appear to have been put out by the publication, and relations in the leadership were unaffected. Had President Ramotar put his foot down, as I had suggested, he would not have faced this problem today. I said at the time that Dr. Jagdeo was not going to stop (“The Jagdeo Challenge” SN 30/3/14). As I predicted, the issue surfaces again!
The PPP’s frenzied response this time around suggests that it is not amused by this most recent attempt to promote Dr. Jagdeo’s candidacy. In a statement the PPP described the filing of the case as a ‘spanner in the works’ that has a ‘hidden agenda’ and is a ‘deceitful and artful fandangle aimed at misleading and confusing PPP supporters.’ The interest of the persons behind the initiative is described as coming from ‘the darkest and deepest crevices of a democracy comparable to the galleries of Hades.’ The case is described as ‘legal twaddle’ and designed to sow discord.
The person who drafted this verbose and metaphorically rich statement, (we know who talks like this, don’t we?) knows exactly who has been peddling the ‘legal twaddle.’ The PPP and President Ramotar are clearly extremely angry but wish to stay far away from the instigator, who can stir up more trouble at this critical time.
I have not seen the court papers so I am blind here but according to press reports, the constitutional motion filed on behalf of an applicant, Cedric Richardson, seeks to enforce a right claimed by him that he is entitled to vote for any person of his choice. The applicant claims that his constitutional right to choose Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo as the President of Guyana is violated by restricting the latter to two presidential terms. In addition, he claims that Article 90 of the Constitution which was amended to restrict a president to two terms was supported by a two-third majority and not by a referendum, as is allegedly required by the Constitution.
It is not known what arguments the lawyers have in mind, but on the surface and at first glance the case has no merit whatsoever. The only constitutional right an elector has is to vote. There is no right to vote for a specific person. If the two-term limit is to be challenged, it is Dr. Jagdeo who must do so. And article 90 of the Constitution, which was amended to provide for the two-term limit, is amendable by a two-thirds majority. A referendum is not required. What legal or intellectual circumlocution (‘twaddle’) is going to be deployed to get around the plain language of the Constitution is anyone’s guess.
The case mentions Dr. Jagdeo. It would normally be assumed by all rational people that the applicant and the lawyers would not have gone to all the trouble of launching legal proceedings before speaking to Dr. Jagdeo. Whether they or their sponsors did or did not – and the latter proposition would strain the credulity of right thinking persons – now that he has declared his disinterest, and with the blast of hellfire from the PPP, invoked directly from ‘Hades,’ it would be interesting to see whether they would withdraw the proceedings.
Promotion of the Jagdeo name is a slap in the face of President Ramotar and can potentially affect his electoral prospects. The message that President Ramotar is being challenged from within, and that there are divisions within the Party, will weaken him and create great uncertainty among PPP supporters. Who in the end will be the presidential candidate, they may now ask, if the case is not withdrawn?
Dr. Jagdeo is well aware that a third presidential term for him is a topical issue. He is also well aware that there is no longer anyone in the leadership of the PPP who will or can resist any move by him to seek a third term, having eliminated from the PPP leadership all those who have stood up to him. However, the one condition is that the occupant must be outgoing with no obvious successor.
The question now is: Does the applicant in the case and his principals believe that a Ramotar candidacy will lose the elections? And is this an effort to remove the legal obstacle so that President Ramotar can be removed and substituted by Dr. Jagdeo?