No desire from Phillips to lead PNP in Local Government Election

No desire from Phillips to lead PNP in Local Government Election

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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AMID concerns that the People's National Party (PNP) will be embroiled in a leadership battle when Prime Minister Andrew Holness announces the local government elections, outgoing general secretary of the Opposition party Julian Robinson says party President Dr Peter Phillips has no desire to face a next election at the helm.

Robinson was hosting a virtual press conference yesterday, following the PNP's National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Sunday, when he was asked about installing a new leader just ahead of a national election.

“The local government election, while fixed, can be held from anytime [between] the end of November to the end of February, because there is a 90-day window. We obviously couldn't wait to determine... I don't know when the Government will call the local government election. We felt it was prudent to have the presidential election in as short a period as is possible, to allow the party an opportunity for a new leader to lead the party into the local government election,” Robinson told the Jamaica Observer.

Concerns have been raised, in some quarters of the embattled party, about the cost to put on the presidential election while preparing for local government elections.

“The PNP continues to talk about its difficulty to raise money, but these internal elections cost money. It's going to cost you to do an internal election even before you find money for local government election. On the floor, I said to them, it's going to cost us close to $100 million to contest the local government election.

“How then do we contemplate internal election, let alone separating the two — vice-presidents and presidential — as well as to find money for local government election? We're risking a wipeout and then we're going to put that on the face of a new leader, and that's no way to start,” Venesha Phillips told the Observer in an interview yesterday, after butting heads with NEC members at the meeting.

She has objected to the party holding an internal election so soon after its crushing 14-49 defeat to the Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party in the recently concluded general election.

Equally, the outspoken PNP councillor for the Papine Division is against holding two separate elections for the vice-presidential and presidential race. She said that it will only serve to further divide the party.

But Robinson has said that Dr Phillips “doesn't have any desire, having indicated that he wants to step down, to necessarily lead the party into a local government election.

“So we have sought to find an appropriate balance, which is to have the presidential election in a short window and allow the new leader an opportunity to lead. And, as I said, we don't know when the election will be called. It can be called up to the end of February,” insisted Robinson.

At the same time, outgoing PNP Chairman Fitz Jackson agreed that the party, having noted the uncertainty of an announcement for the date for the local government elections, recognise that whatever the “outcome of the election, it will not be held against the new leader given the short time he or she will occupy the position as president”.

— Kimone Francis

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