THE PPP’s presidential candidate’s announcement that he would like former President Bharrat Jagdeo to be his vice-president in an Irfaan Ali administration has caused concern in many quarters. This publication feels that it is an issue that threatens to strike yet another blow against good governance in Guyana. The architects of the idea are contemptuous of Guyanese, including their own supporters. They are prepared to throw the rest of the country under the proverbial bus in order to satisfy the ego and ambition of one man; this is nothing more than a political scam.

Mr Jagdeo has been one of the more polarising figures in contemporary Guyanese politics. His tenure as president was riddled with charges of corruption, nepotism, authoritarianism and racism. It was during that tenure that Professor Clive Thomas coined the term “criminalised state” to describe what he viewed as the fusion of the government and state with the criminal underworld. Everything that has negatively plagued Guyana was on show during the Jagdeo presidency. If PPP leaders and supporters are honest, they would reveal that it was the Jagdeo phenomenon that was largely responsible for the party’s fall from grace in 2011 and its electoral defeat in 2015.

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Many Guyanese had hoped that Jagdeo would quietly fade away when his term ended. Some felt that he should be made to pay in the courts for the torment that he visited on the country. But his exit from office, thanks to Guyana’s two-term law did not end his dominance of the PPP’s politics. Many in and out of the party believed that it was he who engineered Donald Ramotar into the presidency and was the hidden hand behind the throne during the tenure of the latter at the helm. So, it was no surprise that after the PPP lost the 2015 election, Jagdeo swiftly took control of the party and has since functioned as the maximum leader.

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In the meantime, the law prohibiting him from seeking the presidency again was challenged in the courts. Although he sought to distance himself from the initiative, it was abundantly clear that he craved a return to the top office. While the local courts ruled in his favour, the CCJ dashed his ambition by upholding the constitutionality of the law. However, Jagdeo was not daunted.

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His grip on the PPP was tightened to the point where other leaders privately expressed fear of offending him. He implicitly and explicitly let it be known that he would play a decisive role in choosing the party’s presidential candidate for the 2020 elections. According to party insiders, true to his promise, he singlehandedly chose Irfaan Ali, a close ally, as the candidate. This choice apparently was done against the wishes of the majority of the leadership and has left deep divisions in the party’s ranks.

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Ali’s elevation to the candidacy has not tamed Jagdeo’s ambition. He continues to be the sole face and voice of the party. This publication has called for the presidential candidate to emerge from the shadows and perform his functions. But Jagdeo has scoffed at such calls as he continues to act as if he were the candidate. He uses his weekly press conference and other public fora to pronounce on all things PPP and in the process inject much poison into the political atmosphere.

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So, it was not surprising when Ali made the controversial announcement. Although Jagdeo has played down the matter, Ali could not have done so without his expressed approval. He Jagdeo had in any case said with much certainty that he would play a big role in a future PPP government. Ali’s announcement seems to have been made without the approval of the PPP’s executive, as none of the other leaders has publicly and formally endorsed the idea.
It is one thing for a former president to be a cabinet member, but to sit as a vice-president suggests that he would in effect be part of the presidency without the formal title. That would be an imposition that Guyana could do without; it sends the wrong signal to the country and should have the effect of scaring away those who desire a fresh start from the PPP.

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It is interesting to note that those who have this past year been trumpeting the cause of the rule of law are completely silent on this attempt by Jagdeo to assume the presidency by other means. Some commentators have described it as entry via the backdoor. It smacks of extreme hypocrisy that these so-called gatekeepers would be so blatantly selective in what they deem to be violation of the rule of law. Isn’t disregard for the spirit of the law a violation of the rule of law? How low can we go?

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Ultimately this Jagdeo-Ali scam would have to be rejected at the ballot box; the PPP is too weak to stop it. Civil society has conveniently lost its voice. Even sections of the media which pride themselves as independent voices of reason and good governance have completely ignored the issue. Jagdeo as president was bad for Guyana; Jagdeo as de facto president would be worse; his penchant for political ruthlessness has been self-proclaimed; his disdain for democratic processes is universally known. For the good of Guyana and in the interest of political stability and constitutional correctness, Guyanese of all persuasions should use their vote to stop this scam in its tracks. After all, political morality matters.

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