The 2840 People’s National Party (PNP) delegates who are eligible to vote in today’s leadership battle between Rise United’s, Peter Murcott Bunting (2nd Peter) and One PNP’s, Peter David Phillips (1st Peter) have an important decision to make.
Polls commissioned by both candidates suggest one is more likely than the other to win the next general elections but, based on independent polls conducted, people have concluded that whatever the outcome of today’s election, the odds are stacked against both 1st and 2nd Peter. Some political commentators have said this is simply a race to the bottom to determine who would lose better against the politically savvy and well liked, Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) but recent elections have shown that any kyaad can play at any time and change the ‘inevitable’.
At the start of the leadership race, I had much hope that there would be substantial discussions (not banter) about the challenges facing the party, including their performance and standing with the electorate. I wanted to hear workable solutions to address the issues comrades, commentators and others have bemoaned about for many months. I hoped, naively I suppose, that, though not the tendency, there would have been some sort of admission and that they would take stock of their party and demand more of both candidates rather than harp about resumes and long service. Note, I am not saying that this has not happened at all. I admit that my knowledge is somewhat limited because, beyond traditional and social media, I am not privy to the conversations that would have been had with persons in communities and other spaces while both camps canvassed and wooed those they engage.
In 2016, I argued, in this paper, that the PNP “is in a peculiar position as it wrestles with the notion of ‘renewal’ and maintaining much of what has been touted as sound beliefs and practices that make it the political party of choice.” Sadly, three years later, not much seem to have changed. Save for the now energized base (thanks to the challenge), it remains lackluster and leaves us wanting while some convince themselves this is still “a PNP country”. I hope though that the interest the leadership challenge has generated nationally will cause delegates to realize that the outcome of this hotly contested election is as much about the PNP as it is about the future of our democracy.
Quite frankly, it’s a daunting responsibility that they alone have to make as we hanker to see who they decide will get the coveted title. The delegates and party workers may not necessarily realize this as yet because quite a bit of their attention, I believe, has been about winning the next general elections (yeah I know that’s what political parties do) than it has been about the circumstances that lead to the challenge in the first place.
Given that today is the long awaited D-Day, they must now realize that their decision will make a statement to the nation about the calibre and leadership of the party in the coming months and the kind of role they will play as the opposition, including holding the government more accountable to its obligations to us, the people. The country simply cannot wait until the PNP regains power for it to perform. We have not that luxury of time to twiddle or thumbs as its exceptionality percolates until it becomes government. Whether in government or opposition, we the people require political parties to work with and for us, to be outstanding.
Therefore, at the end of the day, the delegates will have to cast their votes based on:
- the candidate they feel is best suited to lead the party at this important juncture in their history,
- who puts them in a better stead to compete with and possibly beat the JLP when an election is called,
- the individual with the plans to disrupt the status quo, to modernize the party, address the challenges they are having, improve the communications, etc.,
- the person who can engender confidence in their leadership among the National Executive Council (NEC), Regional Executive Council (REC), party workers, party members and the Jamaican people at large, and
- the individual who with the help and support of their team can present bold, inspiring and workable ideas to move Jamaica forward.
Commendations and good wishes to both candidates. May the best Peter for the PNP win. One hopes that after today’s historic vote, whoever wins will leverage the energy this leadership challenge has engendered to breathe more life into the party while at the same time adequately dealing with the challenges that have festered for so long and those that came about due to the current leadership race.