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PLP branch election winners might not make the cut sources

Progressive Labour Party insiders expect more twists and turns over candidate selection even after branch elections have concluded at the end of next week.

Hard-fought battles are taking place in at least 14 candidate selection meetings across the Country, with a host of new faces seeking to oust long-serving Parliamentarians.

But it’s understood branch election winners are far from certain to make the final cut when the party announces its slate of 36 for the next general election.

The party central committee, headed by Premier Paula Cox, which makes the ultimate decision over the general election line-up, is said to be attaching significant weight to local polling results. One key decision for Ms Cox’s team regards Rolfe Commissiong’s controversial win in Pembroke South East.

Branch chairman Kyjuan Brown has already reportedly contacted Ms Cox to say the branch deems Mr Commissiong unelectable after he polled worse than former United Bermuda Party candidate Tillman Darrell.

Sources say further polling could now take place in that constituency and others where candidates have been selected in disputed circumstances.

Further debate surrounds the battle between Senator David Burt and Minister Neletha Butterfield, who recorded no result in their hotly disputed contest in Pembroke West Central; it’s understood a date is being fixed for a rematch. Party members say numerous rifts have broken out over the candidate selection process since the constitution was changed to make it easier for newcomers to take the seats of sitting MPs.

Many arguments surround the confrontation between new faces and established MPs, with Sen Burt, Mr Commissiong, Marc Daniels, David Burch and Diallo Rabain bidding to take the places of Ms Butterfield, Ashfield DeVent, Randy Horton, Stanley Lowe and Darius Tucker last week. Only Mr Horton was able to win his branch vote.

With three MPs also retiring and more under threat from challenges this week, some senior members fear the new system leaves the party susceptible to a general election line-up top-heavy with inexperienced candidates. Kyjuan Brown has complained it took just 21 votes for Mr Commissiong to win his branch vote; others complain the system can be exploited by candidates willing to pay residents’ membership fees to guarantee their vote.

One member said: “If what happened in the case of Ashfield DeVent happens substantially throughout, the replacement of these seasoned politicians with political newcomers will result in a displacement of much-needed experience and expertise. The public face of the PLP will be weakened as well, which will not be good for the PLP in an imminent by-election or general election.”

However, backbencher Dale Butler argued candidates are able to control their own destiny under the new system and that Mr Commissiong, for example, should not be considered a political lightweight.

“Rolfe can hold his own against almost anyone,” said Mr Butler. “Plus in a democracy anyone over 18 can enter. Then the public members decide if it is an issue. So far it is not.”

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Published September 27, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 27, 2011 at 10:24 am)

PLP branch election winners might not make the cut sources

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