Tue | Jul 23, 2024

PNP delegates unhappy with proposed new candidate selection process

Dawes, Campbell battle heats up

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2023 | 12:40 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
PNP General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell. FILE
PNP General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell. FILE

Delegates of the People’s National party (PNP) in the St Catherine South Eastern constituency are fuming at the proposed new selection process the party will adopt to select a candidate for the constituency.

The party’s National Executive Council (NEC) – the highest decision-making body outside of the national conference – has added an external constituency polling concept whereby an accredited pollster will be asked to poll both candidates against the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) incumbent. They must show that they are able to surpass a stipulated margin over the incumbent to be eligible to get to the stage where the delegates will have a say in the process.

Sitting councillor for the Edgewater division and deputy mayor of Portmore, Alric Campbell, is in a hotly contested race with medical doctor Alfred Dawes.

PNP General Secretary Dayton Campbell told The Gleaner that the party’s constitution is not being breached.

“All the provisions are used in the selection process; the delegates will have their say at the end of the polling,” he said. Campbell explained that the NEC has adopted the polling process to ensure that whoever is selected to run against the incumbent JLP candidate is capable of winning.

“We want to put the winning candidate out there and the party has evolved to where we can use the process to know who can win. I want the delegates to understand that we are about winning elections,” he said.

The selection of the candidates should be completed by the end of April.

But some delegates oppose the process.

Divisional secretary for the Waterford division, Sharon Wheeler, said she is against the polling concept because it robs the delegates of the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in what is supposed to be an internal election.

“Over the years, what I do know is that for internal elections for members of parliament or constituency chairmen every single member of the groups would normally vote. That is what the constituency dictates,” Wheeler told The Gleaner.

“For me now to be hearing about poll, we are wondering where this new thing is coming from. Is it that we are now putting the party constitution aside and it is no longer important for members to have a say in the selection of their candidates?” She added that she was speaking on behalf of her group.

Westchester division group delegate Wayne Frazer said he is against the polling concept because of its broad-base appeal.

“A poll that randomly decides who is popular will not give a true reflection of who can necessarily beat Robert Miller because it is open to JLP supporters who will give answers to support the weaker PNP candidate who they know they can beat. We can’t change the constitution to suit other people, and that is what is going on right now,” Frazer said.

A cluster manager in Edgewater said the process is wrong and it should never be used.

“We have never used an external pollster to poll the entire constituency to select members of the party before. Why didn’t we use it when we were selecting the president of the party? Now they are going to use it between Alric, Dawes and Miller. How does Miller come into an internal party selection?

However, the two aspirants vying for the seat are not in opposition to the process.

Dawes said the constitution has not been breached and the absence of a constituency chairman gives the NEC the right to decide the process.

Campbell, on the other hand, noted that if the poll is not the deciding factor, he has no problem with the process. He maintained, however, that the groups did not lose their legitimacy because no constituency conference was held to elect a chairman.

The constituency was first won by the People’s National Party in 1993, and it was not until the 2020 general election that the JLP was able to wrest the seat away from Colin Fagan.

Fagan first won it in 2007 after taking over from the late Dr Paul Robertson who retired from representational politics.

Campbell expressed confidence that the party will reclaim the seat when the general election, constitutionally due in 2025, is called.