By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FORMER Cabinet minister George Smith yesterday dismissed the suggestion that the Progressive Liberal Party’s convention will not facilitate a fair process, saying it is an “insult” to assert that stalwart councillors can be easily persuaded to vote in favour of any candidate.
He said the stalwarts, which make up the majority of the party’s delegates with voting power, aren’t “lambs being led blindly” to side with a particular challenger. Anyone who believes this, Mr Smith said, is doing a great disservice to those who form the backbone of the PLP.
While Mr Smith said he believes Prime Minister Perry Christie will be re-elected to lead the party, he predicted that former Attorney General Alfred Sears will receive a “considerable” number of votes. He said this is expected to better position the attorney for another leadership run in the future.
He was responding to former PLP MP Philip Galanis who earlier this week told The Tribune that Mr Sears will not receive a fair shot during the party’s convention next week.
Mr Galanis went on to explain that in his view the odds are in favour of Mr Christie, who he predicted will remain party leader following the highly anticipated political event. He said Mr Christie has the ability to appoint any number of stalwart councillors.
Mr Sears is the only challenger so far to publicly announce his intention to challenge Mr Christie for the party’s top post.
“The stalwarts are people who have given meritorious service to the party. The delegates aren’t a bunch of lambs being led anywhere blindly,” Mr Smith said. “These are senior, mature and aware people who have toiled in the midday sun for this party. These are the people who keep the party stable and solid as a rock.
“There is a myth that anyone could dictate to them. But to think this way is really an insult. People who believe that they will follow anyone blindly are paying a great disservice to the party.
“People will decide whether they want him (Mr Sears) or if they want to stick with Mr Christie. I believe that Mr Sears’ biggest problem is he is not a seated member of Parliament. For many there are questions over how this will work.”
National discussions regarding the PLP’s leadership race were reignited after Mr Christie spoke on Sunday of his energy and eagerness to serve another term in office.
On Monday, Mr Galanis told The Tribune: “I believe that at the end of the day the odds are in favour of Mr Christie winning because of the way that the election process is designed. That is that the leader of the party has the ability to appoint a number of stalwart councillors, many of whom may feel ingratiated to the leader and therefore support him.
“I think, however, that there is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction in the public domain with respect to the body of politics in general that relates to the PLP, the Free National Movement and the dissidents of the FNM and the DNA. I think people generally are really tired of the petty politics that they see ensuing in this country and really want leaders who are more dedicated and prepared to address the real issues in this country of which there are many.
“I am not prepared at this point to say that Mr Christie’s continued leadership of the PLP will hurt it in the elections, (but) what I do think would happen is if the people can see new leadership at various levels of the party - that is chairmanship, the leadership and also among the candidates who will be offering for the general elections - they will be more inclined to support the PLP.”
“I think that generally people are really frustrated because the FNM is extremely fractured, well the entire opposition is fractured. So the people generally feel that they are really choosing between the lesser of all evils and not necessarily the best of all options,” he said.