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Choosing candidates (Part 2)

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In the first part of this article last week, I gave a background to our approaches in selecting candidates to contest general elections and therefore possible Parliamentary representatives. We shall conclude in this second part.{{more}}

It is clear that the political parties are gearing up for the next elections, due by year-end 2015. No doubt they are getting their election ‘war chests’ in shape, tapping financiers, local and external for donations. That, the issue of “political party financing” is an issue in itself, best left for a separate article. Their political songs are readied; leaders are serving political “red meat” to gee up their supporters and all indications are that what is best described as the “silly season” is about to descend on us.

What is to be hoped is that the silliness does not extend to the selection of candidates, the missing piece in the electoral puzzle thus far. Already, given the narrow one-seat margin in the House, both parties are stuck with most of the incumbents, irrespective of their performance so far. Personal ambitions are such that even those who contested and failed do not bow out easily and getting a replacement can be a messy affair, as both parties have experienced.

But is that the best approach towards such a critical selection? If the person selected is successful at the polls, that person is expected not only to serve the people of the constituency, but should the party be victorious at the polls, he/she can become a Minister of government, representing the entire national constituency and providing political leadership to the whole nation. Is that a factor in the party’s candidate selection? Should not just prospective candidates, but incumbents too, come under scrutiny for selection?

What are the selection criteria or yardsticks used to select candidates? Are party groups/ constituency councils given sufficient guidance to enable them to make appropriate choices? The primary system being introduced is useful and a forward step, but even in that process, experience in both parties reveals that sometimes the party leadership intervenes, not so much in providing guidance, but seemingly in favour of a particular candidate. While it might not necessarily be so, such impressions have been created in the past.

In my view, prospective candidates hoping to represent us in this far more enlightened and globalised world need to have a basic understanding of political economy. It is one thing to be on a platform either extolling the achievements of the present administration or severely criticizing it; another matter completely to find oneself in the political wheelhouse, with responsibility of guiding the ship of state through difficult waters.

Then, there is the track record of prospects at the community, constituency and national levels. Importantly, has that person demonstrated a fundamental people-orientation? Are there signs of that person being unduly blinded by power and position? What of the basic qualities of humility, honesty, loyalty and patriotism? Is there evidence of a forward-looking vision for a new, progressive SVG?

If we apply such standards, perhaps many present MPs and prospective ones alike, may fall short. Time is of the essence in making the necessary preparations, but it is vital that the parties do this. There are clearly persons in the line-up who can do credit to our country and Parliament, who have demonstrated their qualities, principles and virtues and deserve a chance.

No doubt they would have to pass the litmus test of their respective leaderships and compete internally against possibly good candidates. But our country needs fearless persons, servants of the people in Parliament and Government, harbingers of a new tomorrow. Senator Jomo Thomas is of this ilk, forged in the anvil of political struggle, to quote our Prime Minister.

A youth leader since early teens, a fellow-colleague of mine, not afraid as a youngster to take on the might of the then “strongest government in the world,” a man who has advanced himself professionally, while never ignoring roots or political development. We need people like him in Parliament.

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