We have witnessed a plethora of comment on the island about the upcoming convention of the main opposition party the National Democratic Congress (NDC). While such events take place each year, this one has special significance. Since the party’s disastrous performance in the last general elections, many opine, both inside and outside the party that it is time for party leader and former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to call it quits. The stage is now set for Mr Thomas’s departure as news reports indicate that he had officially advised the party’s executive that he will not seek election to any position within its executive.
In the eyes of many, Mr Thomas represents a rare breed of “servants” of politics in an era where the reputation of politicians is at an all time low. By his action, the stage is now set for the election of a new political leader. For some months now, the issue has been smouldering but, over the last few weeks, the issue is hotly debated on the streets and in the press. As it now stands, the names of Nazim Burke, an attorney at law and current deputy political leader and Franka Bernardine, former minister in the last NDC administration, seem to be the main candidates.
Founding member and former NDC politician, Phinsley St Louis, has weighed on the issue publicly suggesting that the country is ripe for “female leadership”. Mr St Louis went on to say that men have failed the nation and it is time to give a woman nod. Self indictment is evident in the comment. Another member, Mr William Joseph, also voiced his opposition to the possible election of Burke.
The NDC has an image of infighting and division. The Alexis-Brizan era was followed by the last saga involving Tillman Thomas and Peter David. Mr David was expelled by delegates on September 30, 2012, at a convention. This took place five months after he resigned from the Tillman Thomas administration.
This convention has significant bearing on the future prospects of the NDC. There are those who opine that there must be a contest. Others will naturally think that the executive should provide leadership on the issue and whatever arguments that take place should be behind closed doors. It is all about crafting an image that projects internal unity.
The average Grenadian does not know the composition of the executive of the governing New National Party (NNP). The present executive of that party was elected almost all unopposed, bar one position, at its last convention. There is a strange dichotomy at play. When democracy is exercised in the open, it is called infighting. However when it is exercised in deliberate and managed environment, there are those who will cry foul saying that it is “managed democracy”. This concept is an attempt to diminish the moral authority derived from a democratic process.
The membership of the NDC may be well advised that a chaotic election at its convention can only make bad matters worse for a party that failed to win a seat in the last election. What makes it worse was that they did so while holding the reins of political office.
The root cause, some say, was infighting. Democracy must be handled in a mature and constructive manner. Its unintelligent use can lead to disaster. This is something that the NDC can ill afford.