Suggestions for rebuilding the PPP
By Staff Writer On June 15, 2015 @ 5:10 am In Letters
As the emotional phase of the 2015 elections winds down, the PPP/C leadership must take stock of why it was edged out of office as well as begin the process of rebuilding the party to address areas where it went wrong so as to improve its chance of winning the next election. A frank, incisive stocktaking is needed. The party must take cognisance of the fact that since almost 50% of the population voted against the party two times in a row, something was amiss – perhaps its policies and implementation were in need of rehabilitation and its personnel (leadership included) in need of replacement. A reconfiguration of the party is badly needed if it is to re-attract those who left bringing about the party’s defeat.
As many complained during the 2011 and 2015 campaigns, the PPP/C failed to ensure that almost the entire population benefited from its strong economic focus and the many initiatives it undertook. Supporters complained they were neglected and many did not vote particularly in 2011. In addition, the party allowed its leadership, some ministers and other lower governmental officials to become too powerful, ignoring the wants of the people and dismissing their complaints.
In going into the 2015 elections, the party seemed to have learned nothing from its 2011 defeat. It erred in not making necessary changes to its leadership after the 2011 election fiasco. It did not bring in significant new faces to its parliamentary line-up after 2011 and it made several blunders in parliament, not the least not working with the opposition majority in parliament. It unwisely fought the ambassadors of the major Western countries who were unsympathetic to the PPP. In addition, credible individuals from the Civic were not courted or recruited to show the party had changed although supporters were crying out for change and pleading for service. Not surprisingly, the party lost a sufficient number of supporters (or failed to re-attract them) to prevent what took place on May 11. Because of so many unforced blunders, it will be a long haul for the party to return to government. The leadership has to be creative and innovative in trying to woo back those who abandoned the party and to win over those who voted for APNU+AFC. Unless the party reinvents and re-engineers itself with new leadership, it will go the way of the PNC after its defeat in 1992 – out of power for a long time.
For the party to make a comeback politically, it must appoint credible young faces in its parliamentary line-up and leadership as well begin the process of internal reform as part of a rebuilding process. The latter requires a new wave of political thinking that centres around ‘accommodative politicking’ or coalition building which is opposed by the old timers and hardliners. To make way for the newer generation, the party has to retire the old timers and those who are holdovers from the 1990s, and those hardliners who find it an honour to oppose the major Western powers; the latter are still stuck in a Cold War mentality while the world has moved on. The party must move on to its second tier leadership to spearhead the reform and rebuilding process. The old timers can hold the fort for an interim period till the party holds a special election to choose new leadership (new blood).
There are a few strong young leaders within the party who can be a nucleus to bring needed changes and move the party into a modern era, moving it away from the 1960s model of struggles. Ashni Singh, Irfaan Ali, Anil Nandlall, Priya Manikchand, and Robert Persaud were rated very highly as ministers as well as members of parliament. The party will have to find someone in the mould of a Cheddi Jagan who dedicates themselves full time to politics. There are not many like him around. Persaud has indicated a lack of interest in politics and Nandlall, one of the most brilliant lawyers and a rising star, recently ran into problems with political gaffes and may find it difficult to recover his one-time leading stature. The party can tap into its Civic component where there are several professionals with strong potential for parliamentary representation and leadership. Professionals from the Civic have a greater ability to win over the critical business community and floating voters as well as draw cross-ethnic support that will be needed for any future electoral victory because of the party’s declining support base. Individuals like Dr Peter Ramsaroop, Elisabeth Harper, Dr Mahinder Sharma, Joe Hamilton, and Africo Selman, among others, should be encouraged to play a leading role in the party especially since they were on the Civic list. Their likeability ratings are extremely high. Ramsaroop and Sharma should be encouraged to play a front-line role in the new parliament as they are well liked by both the PPP and APNU base. It should not go unnoticed that Ramsaroop helped formulate the National Front Alliance whose leader Keith Scott is now a minister in the coalition government. Also, Ramsaroop was a key executive in the Reform which started change in the PNC that has captured the government from the PPP. He was also a key initiator in the formation of the Third Force that morphed into the AFC and a key player in JOPP which ultimately transformed into APNU that is now in government with AFC. Ramsaroop, Sharma, Selman, and Hamilton, understand each of their politics and can play strategic roles in the rebuilding of the PPP.
Now that it is a de facto opposition, the party should consider appointing shadow ministers to keep track of government undertakings regardless of whether it sits in parliament.
Leadership is about courage and the PPP indisputably needs new leaders who can demonstrate they are once again ready to lead the nation as Dr Jagan did in the 1950s and 1992. The PPP/C needs to articulate an attractive vision and all efforts must be made to get out of the 1960s model politics driven by some old timers and embrace the modern approach to unity politics needed to win elections and govern diverse Guyana.