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Feb 15, 2005

6 candidates seek 2 slots for PUP Deputy Leader

Story PictureIt’s convention time for the ruling Peoples United Party and this Sunday’s national gathering should be one of the most interesting since the election of Said Musa as party leader in 1996. Despite his recent challenges from within and without, there is little chance of a serious threat to Musa’s leadership…but the two posts of deputy leader are definitely up for grabs. Six aspirants, all members of the House of Representatives and Cabinet, are engaging in campaigns of varying intensity. They are incumbent Johnny Briceño, Vildo Marin, Godfrey Smith, Joe Coye, Sylvia Flores and Mike Espat. Each candidate is making a special pitch, based on qualities ranging from loyalty and geography to ethnicity and gender.

Key to the outcome is the system of voting. On Saturday, the National Party Council–around one hundred and sixty strong–will meet to recommend two candidates for the two posts. Contrary to what you might hear, both positions are of equal status; there is no first and second deputy. The National Party Council consists of the chairman plus three delegates from each constituency, with additional delegates named by the Prime Minister and various PUP organisations. Saturday’s voting will be by secret ballot so each delegate will be free to vote his or her conscience.

The results of Saturday’s voting will be placed before Sunday’s convention as a recommendation from the National Party Council. At that point, any one of the six hundred and forty official convention delegates–representing each constituency according to the number of PUP votes in the last general election–can make a nomination from the floor. Once nominations, if any, are made those six hundred and forty delegates will vote for only two names, again by secret ballot.

When the voting is over the two top vote getters will become the two deputy leaders of the Peoples United Party. And who becomes the Deputy Prime Minister? While there is no law that says that the Deputy P.M. must also be the deputy leader of the ruling party, PUP insiders tell News 5 that it would be very difficult to imagine the Prime Minister not choosing one of his two party lieutenants as Deputy P.M….although the top vote getter is not necessarily a shoo-in for the job.

So who’s the favourite? Vildo Marin and Mike Espat appear to be running as a slate, very loyal to the Prime Minister. Johnny Briceño seems to be counting on continuity in turbulent times, putting out the message that he can work with any of the other candidates, particularly Godfrey Smith or Sylvia Flores, each of whom provides both geographic and ethnic balance. Joe Coye is running on experience and his particular skills in the financial arena while Smith is running hard based on his P.R. abilities and what seems to be a position of newfound favour with the Prime Minister…who of course professes neutrality. Sylvia Flores, meanwhile, is the most reluctant candidate, but a strong grass roots movement among the powerful women’s wing of the party may make her a factor to reckon with. As the only female in the House of Representatives and with women woefully under represented at all levels of both party hierarchies, she will be a candidate difficult to ignore. The question may well evolve into which man she designates as the one most fit to be her consort.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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