by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 May 2006)
There is still a buzz about the recent poll that showed the AFC garnering a healthy amount of votes if the elections were held at the time of the poll. There was even a letter to the Editor about it in yesterday's edition of the Guyana Chronicle. The letter written by Ronald Isaacs questioned the integrity of the poll, but it is another interesting point that I would like to discuss in this column.
Mr. Isaacs said, "Some of the key statistics of the poll were that 1,063 persons who are expected to exercise their franchise at the next elections were interviewed. Of this number 40 per cent favoured President Bharrat Jagdeo, 36 per cent for Opposition Leader Robert Corbin and 21 per cent preferred AFC leader, Raphael Trotman."
Most of the response to this poll, whether from the media or from the citizens, has framed the statistical information in a similar way by referring to the three potential leaders for the upcoming elections – Jagdeo, Corbin and Trotman. Even the AFC's new campaign manager, Dick Morris said he thought the party's Presidential candidate, Mr. Raphael Trotman, had an "excellent chance" of becoming Guyana's next President.
However, unless the AFC has changed its position, Trotman would actually only serve as President for half of the term if the party sweeps the elections and Khemraj Ramjattan would serve for the latter half of the term under the new rotating leadership plan they announced at the official launching of their party last fall.
As such, it would be shortsighted for voters to base their election decisions on the premise that Raphael Trotman alone is the presidential candidate for the AFC. In fact, it even seems a bit misleading for the party to put Trotman out in the limelight tagged as the presidential candidate when he will only serve for half of the term.
Personally, I don't think it is wise to change Presidents mid-term. The role of the President is not like switching hats mid-day, it takes a while for the people to warm up to anyone who fills that role. Moreover, I have a higher level of respect for Trotman than for Ramjattan because the former stayed true to his word and vacated the seat he maintained in Parliament under the PNCR.
Ramjattan, as well as Sheila Holder, held their seats hostage and carried on as if they had a right to represent their previous parties and be leaders of a new party at the same time. There were many people who felt these MP's should vacate the rightful seats of their former parties, but these two dogmatically refused to budge on the issue and in the process caused a controversial situation for the infant party right from the start.
If I were a Guyanese woman on my way to the voting booth today, I think I would find myself in a serious personal dilemma given that the AFC is pretending like it only has one presidential candidate, when in fact it has two. What if I believe one person has what it takes to do what is right for the nation and do not hold the other person in the same light?
It is difficult enough to make a decision to trust one person to effectively lead the country, so why on earth would the AFC want to create such a predicament for the voters by presenting two people to be considered for the top role of leadership?
Is this the only avenue by which Trotman and Ramjattan could find an amiable working situation? Or do they believe this strategy will bring in more votes from both sides of Guyana's political racial divide? Whatever it's reasoning, I think it only fair that the party should be completely straightforward when presenting its candidate for President to the voters.
It would be wrong of Ramjattan to ride Trotman's coattail into the Presidential Office while the nation is left to wonder how on earth he got there. If the AFC has two presidential candidates, then let the nation know so both of them can be judged separately for their ability to fill this very important leadership role.
I think the AFC should seriously reconsider instituting this rotating leadership plan since it will only diminish their chances at optimising their potential for votes. It will be confusing for the voters and cause increased levels of scepticism – as is perfectly normal with an additional personality added to the candidate list and the introduction of a new and untested plan to the party's agenda.
Whatever it is that the AFC is doing with its multiple presidential candidates, the public has the right to know. Is Ramjattan on the ticket as presidential candidate too, or is Trotman it's sole runner? Personally, I think as long as Ramjattan has a seat to hold onto for dear life – any seat will do just fine – then I'm sure he will be happy.