Panellists: party members, not political leaders should choose candidates

Chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda True Labour Party (ABTLP) Vere Bird III

Members of a political party, and not the executive, should have the final say regarding who is selected to be the party’s candidate to contest a constituency seat. That was the agreed position of the three panellists on yesterday’s Big Issues programme on OBSERVER Radio.

George Rick James, Secretary of the Free and Fair Election League, Denys Springer, social scientist and political analyst, and Vere Bird III, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour Party found common ground while discussing recent developments within the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party from which there is speculation that potential candidates are being asked to step down to allow party favourites to represent the party in constituencies at the next general elections.

During the discussion, Rick James advocated for the supervision of a primary to be placed in the hands of an independent body or a private organisation.

“It would still be their [leaders’] role to decide on the suitability of the individuals who have declared their intention to run. But, in the final analysis, the voters in the constituency would be given the opportunity to pick the person who will try and represent them in a general election,” James said.

According to him, it is problematic that a member of a political party loses at the polls but is subsequently placed in the Senate because of being “handpicked,” or, on the other hand, a member is similarly rewarded for giving way to a preferred candidate.

Denys Springer agreed that once prospective candidates have met the required criteria, the membership of the party and not those in higher ranks should choose who goes up for election.

He added that if a person is not performing at the level that the constituency wants, “there should be a recall.”

Noting that the system of recall does not exist in the Caribbean, Springer said, “The party hierarchy seems to decide who they want and who they don’t want, and yet they call this democracy.”

Bird III, a former member of the ABLP, said that party’s constitution was re-drafted in 2005 to give the executive the final say on who will represent the party in an election.

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