GUYANA'S ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP/Civic) has decided to stay with Samuel Hinds, its prime minister of four consecutive terms, for the number two spot for the coming November 28 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Hinds, a 68-year-old chemical engineer and former civil society crusader of the "Forbes Burnham political era" for restoration of electoral democracy in Guyana, was officially announced Sunday as the prime ministerial running-mate to the incumbent PPP's first-time presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar, an economist and long-serving general secretary of the party.
Ramotar, who will succeed outgoing executive president Bharrat Jagdeo, should the PPP/Civic win an unprecedented fifth consecutive five-year term, made the announcement of Hinds as his running-mate at an election rally in the bauxite mining town of Linden, some 65 miles away from the capital Georgetown.
Linden has been a traditional stronghold of the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNCR), located in Region 10 for electoral purposes. But the electorate in the mining town and the wider Region 10 constituency have been increasingly diversifying their votes at elections with the PPP/Civic being a significant beneficiary that contributed to securing one of the two allotted parliamentary seats in the 65-member National Assembly in the 2006 elections.
As the running-mate to presidential hopeful Ramotar, Hinds will again emerge as the prime minister should the incumbent achieve its goal of a fifth-term victory. He had previously served as prime minister in government, headed by late presidents Dr Cheddi Jagan and his widow Janet Jagan and the now outgoing Jagdeo, who is constitutionally debarred from more than two consecutive terms.
In a telephone interview, Hinds said he would be willing to have the opportunity to again serve as prime minister. That would be "good for continuity", he added, "in advancing the social, cultural and economic developments of our dear land of Guyana, and at a time when Guyanese, across the political divide are clearly showing greater interest in what unite us and not the old divisions that have been so counter-productive and injurious to families and communities".
Hinds, the former long-serving director for production quality, research and development in the mining operations of what used to be Canadian-owned before nationalisation, feels that the PNCR "is hurting itself in seeking to play the old divisive politics in Linden, now under a coalition of convenience called APNU (A Partnership for National Unity)".
He was originally invited by the late Dr Jagan to join the PPP/Civic team for the internationally supervised 1992 general election that had resulted in ending 24 years of interrupted state power by the PNC, first under Forbes Burnham (the country's first executive president) and, following his death, Desmond Hoyte.
At the time of his exit as a civil society crusader for electoral democracy, Hinds was chairman of a coalition of forces under what's recalled as GUARD — Guyanese for Action, Reform and Democracy.
Meanwhile, the PPP/C's primary traditional challenger, the PNC, remains focused in enabling the coalition of parties under the umbrella of APNU — of which it is the dominant partner — to prevent the incumbent's return to power for a fifth term.
Having been absorbed into APNU, it means that for the first time the PNC, which once controlled state power for some 24 unbroken years, based on highly controversial elections, will not be a contestant for the November 28 poll.
APNU's presidential candidate will be the 65-year-old former brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force, David Granger. He had secured a narrow 15-vote margin last February to get the PNC's endorsement to be its presidential candidate. The APNU coalition is hoping to announce shortly its choice of prime ministerial running-mate to presidential hopeful Granger.
However, the Alliance for Change (AFC), which presents itself as the "alternative" to both the PPP and PNC, and which secured five seats at the last election in August 2006, has been boasting of making "new inroads" in traditional strongholds of the two major parties. It is yet to identify its likely prime ministerial candidate.