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To stay or to go now – and who shall succeed

To stay or to go now – and who shall succeed

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Listening to WEFM’s Issue At Hand last Sunday, I got the impression that Prime Minister Gonsalves affirmed that he has the energy, strength and will to continue in office, unless or until the people say otherwise.

Enduring national service at the highest level is reserved for a skilled and dedicated few. Some leaders are constrained to leave long before they would have wished. Others overstay their time. Very few have the timing just right.

Twenty-one years of national service delivery at the highest level is a long time. It is a testimony of the calibre and acumen of the guileful Dr Gonsalves on the one hand and maybe, a reflection also on the quality and strategic thrust of those who have attempted to unseat him.

Whispered words from amongst some supporters of the ULP, is that Dr Gonsalves has served his time and should now bow out gracefully. But there also remains a strident constituency that loops the ULP’s 2005 mantra – “Keep De Comrade there”.

Two Terms

One may recall that Dr Gonsalves, while in opposition had stated that a prime minister should not serve more than two consecutive terms and, if he had his way, he would comply with this, his own viewpoint.

I don’t fault Dr Gonsalves for changing his position. Why leave when the people wish otherwise? Isn’t this an important tenet of our democracy? A statutory limitation on time at the helm has both pros and cons.

Nevertheless, the practice in the English-speaking democracies of the Caribbean is for political leaders to remain in office until they are no longer wanted by the people – polled and confirmed in most instances, at the ballot box.

Only four regional prime ministers have demitted office

I can only recall four regional prime ministers who resigned from office – Edward Leblanc of Dominica, Sir James Mitchell of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sir Nicholas Brathwaite of Grenada, and P.J. Patterson of Jamaica. It is not likely that Ralph Gonsalves will be a fifth, at least not before the next general elections. By the way, some seven CARICOM prime ministers died in office since the Community was established in 1973.

It is interesting to note that both Milton Cato and James Mitchell quit active politics at the age of 69 years, while Ebenezer Joshua scraped his way to 71 years.

Dr Gonsalves is soon going to be 76 years of age but, apparently has sufficient energy to take on the rough and tumble of local politics for a few years yet. Yes, politics is about timing, and no one is more mindful of this maxim than our eminent political scientist and activist of 54 years standing. I am sure that Dr Gonsalves has one eye on his goals yet to be achieved while gauging the mood of the people.

Best option to lead the ULP into the next general elections

It may well be that Ralph Gonsalves is still the best option to lead the ULP into the next general elections. But he, and the Party’s other leaders have to do what they must, to avoid organizational corrosion as a direct consequence.

Electing a deputy leader

The ULP party has stepped up its focus on this matter of succession planning and intends to elect a deputy leader in a few weeks.

I urge the party leaders to ensure that the sanctity of the democratic process is upheld. It is not only about the choice, but also the pathway to this choice that will determine the success of the party in the next elections and beyond.

Yes, consensus is a form of democracy. But yet, because it is sometimes subjected to the unyielding influence of a few, the very ideal of a democratic process can be thwarted, to deleterious effect.

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