Chief Whip Marlene Mc Donald told local media Thursday, "We have not nominated anyone."
She added, "It is for the Government to put up a nominee," explaining that the Opposition is just an electoral minority in the whole nomination process.
That sounds like smart Public Relations from the PNM because it might have found itself in a position where its caucus cannot agree on a person to nominate.
The rules stipulate that 12 MPs must sign the nomination documents. Today the PNM has the 12 but Rowley is the only one among them who was not handpicked by former PM Patrick Manning so getting the 12 to agree might be a difficult proposition especially since Manning is on extended medical leave from Parliament.
In addition, despite the public pronouncements, Manning and Rowley do not sing from the same song sheet so getting his signature might be a near impossibility. Still, there are a few days and the PNM can present its candidate if it can get its people to agree.
However it is presenting a new consensus approach, which is good imaging for the party under these circumstances. It certainly is a change of direction.
When it was in opposition in 1997 with 17 seats, it nominated sitting High Court Judge, Justice Anthony Lucky to oppose the UNC's Arthur N.R. Robinson for President. It did not have the required seats to name a candidate in 1997 after the 33-3 defeat by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) when the NAR nominated Noor Hassanali.
The UNC showed the same partisan approach to the presidential election. The one time when it was in opposition (2003) for an election it named Ganase Ramdial in opposition to the PNM's George Maxwell Richards.
Its predecessor party, the United Labour Front and its ally in Tobago, The Democratic Action Committee, had 10 seats combined in 1976 so that alliance could not nominate a presidential candidate because it was two seats short. Ellis Clarke was elected unopposed as was Hassanali in 1997. In both cases the opposition of the day did not have the political strength to make nominations.
Now the PNM wants a "consensus candidate". Opposition leader Keith Rowley told local media he instructed McDonald to communicate with the Prime Minister on the matter. He is contending that since a simple majority is all that it takes to win nobody "of any high quality" would want to go up as a minority candidate, knowing that the government nominee can win.
By that logic and reasoning it would seem that Justice Lucky was not a "person of any high quality" because the same rule applied then and it was clear that he would not win the election against Robinson. Perhaps Rowley owes Justice Lucky an apology.
McDonald told reporters she and the PM spoke and both sides reported that neither had a candidate. "I indicated that the PNM was not going to support any sitting parliamentarian for the post," she said.
That PNM position means it would vote against Winston Dookeran, Timothy Hamel Smith or Wade Mark if any of those names is on the ballot. However, if the PP names one of them he would become president because of how the electoral college works.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told reporters Thursday the People's Partnership will nominate one person and that it would reveal the name of that person on Monday. And she promised that the nominee would be a person chosen after widespread consultation.
She said the country possesses many persons "who are quite capable of filling the post of President and carrying out the associated functions with dignity, humility and competence".
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Government will announce nominee for president on Monday: PM Kamla