PNP on 'Ps and Qs' for upcoming presidential poll

PNP on 'Ps and Qs' for upcoming presidential poll

Thursday, October 15, 2020

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After the massive defeat in the September 3 parliamentary election, the People's National Party (PNP) cannot afford substantial 'bleeding' — if any at all — from the upcoming presidential contest involving Ms Lisa Hanna and Mr Mark Golding.

The bitter contest in 2008 between outgoing PNP president and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and then incumbent President Ms Portia Simpson Miller had consequences which Comrades suggest have lasted to this day.

And there seems little doubt that last year's bitter internal battle between Dr Phillips and Mr Peter Bunting was at least equally damaging.

Also, the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) can testify to damage — though only temporary — from the challenge to Mr Andrew Holness for leadership of that party by Mr Audley Shaw in 2013.

Yet, parties which claim to be democratic can't credibly refuse to embrace challenges and contests to leadership, giving designated delegates/representatives of party members and supporters the right to have their say.

All agree that much depends on how such contests are conducted and managed. Hence the sense that the PNP's hierarchy, as well as candidates, are doing their utmost to ensure the current campaign is as devoid of vitriol and irresponsible rhetoric as is infinitely possible.

Ms Hanna, who we are told has launched a 'Bring Back the Love' campaign, says a clean and respectful campaign was always her intention.

Says she: “We were very clear at the onset that we intend to run a clean campaign that does not hit below the belt. Our campaign team has been very strident in that. And we also are very clear that we believe in vision and not vitriol.”

And Mr Golding, who has sought to project an equally unifying posture, tells us that he is asking “all his supporters to stay high and don't go low”.

Both have expressed a warm regard for each other. They have committed themselves, in the event of defeat, to give full support to the victor.

It would appear that, apart from the odd tweak, the code of conduct signed by the contestants this week is much the same as in times past.

Since historical evidence suggests agreed codes were often not followed, proper management of the current campaign to ensure the “interests and reputation” of the party is protected will be critical.

The COVID-19 protocols should work in the PNP's favour; dousing the temptation for crowded 'platform' events at which damaging nonsense and abuse — often fuelled by ego, alcohol, etc — are spouted.

We expect that the Election Monitoring and Appeals Committee will seek to pay special attention to campaign financing as well as any allegations of bribery.

While there have been allegations that bribery routinely mar general election campaigns — the last one included — such charges have also been made in relation to internal party polls.

We recall Dr Phillips's warning after the September 3 election that the feeling among some people that the vote should be used for “pecuniary and monetary benefit” poses extreme danger, “because left unchecked it means our democracy will be available to who has the most money...”

Approaching the upcoming delegates' poll, the PNP will need to be on high alert.


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