There is no longer the Medvedev syndrome in Guyana – By Freddie Kissoon 

There is no longer the Medvedev syndrome in Guyana

Jul 11, 2018  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon 

After serving two terms, Vladimir Putin could not run for the presidency in 2008. Though the Russian constitution does not impose term limits, a president can only serve two consecutive terms. He can later down the years be elected again. What happened then is that Putin manoeuvred his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, into the presidency in 2008 waiting to return in 2012.

Thus was born the Medvedev syndrome, meaning Medvedev was simply a surrogate of Putin. Real power was not with Medvedev, the president, but the powerfully placed Putin. Why it is referred to as the Medvedev syndrome is because Medvedev was simply holding on for Putin to come back. Medvedev could not have become his own man between 2008 and 2012, because after 2012 he would have felt the wrath of Putin.             

Putin virtually controls and dominates “United Russia,” the ruling political party. United Russia would not have accepted Medvedev as its presidential candidate in 2012 once Putin was contesting the nomination. Had Medvedev freed himself from Putin’s control after he became president in 2008, then after 2012, his political life would have been over. So he simply held the fort for Putin until 2012. Putin won in 2012 and 2018. The presidency is now for six years. Putin cannot run again in 2024 but will have to skip another election as he did after 2008. So the Medvedev syndrome may go on in Russia.

In Guyana, Donald Ramotar allowed himself to be subordinate to Bharrat Jagdeo because, as all PPP leaders do, he believed that the PPP would never lose a general election and since Jagdeo virtually owns the PPP, he, Jagdeo may be the president again if he won the term limit case at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). It was an identical situation with Ramotar and Medvedev. But Jagdeo’s defeat in the CCJ has removed the possibility of a PPP presidential candidate having to fear that a future Jagdeo presidency can victimize him/her if they do not toe Jagdeo’s line.

There is no longer the Medvedev syndrome in Guyana. Here is why. Suppose the PPP wins the presidency in 2020, what fear will the president of the country have of his party leader; in this case Jagdeo? The president is a very powerful figure under the constitution. Every president from Burnham onwards has used the power of his office to reshape his/her political party.

Jagdeo was a virtual unknown when he became deputy Finance Minister. Roger Luncheon, testifying at Jagdeo’s libel case against me, said he first knew Jagdeo after the 1992 general elections. Yet today, Jagdeo has overridden scores of quintessential Jaganite protégés and has completely taken over the PPP. Mr. Jagdeo was in primary school when some strong PPP leaders were dominating the PPP. Those “old heads” are still in the PPP leadership and they accept their subordination to Jagdeo.

How did Jagdeo do it? He emulated President Desmond Hoyte. Hoyte was never a favourite among PNC leaders, especially the women and youth sections. He was never one who socialized with the PNC leadership. After he became president in 1985, Desmond Hoyte literally purged the PNC of its Burnhamite fulcrums. He installed those he preferred. How did he do it? By using the presidency. Jagdeo put presidential power at his service to transform the PPP in his image. This is where we are at today.

It is obvious that Jagdeo will be instrumental in the selection of the PPP’s presidential candidate. But even here the Medvedev syndrome is dead. If the candidate behaves like a surrogate, he will look comical in the eyes of the world. Here is a person who is likely to be the president of the country and he/she is a mere rubber stamp for his/her party leader. It is a foregone conclusion that citizens will say we are not electing him but Jagdeo instead. All over the world, without exception, a presidential candidate is seen as the main figure in his/her political party.

What is facing the PPP and Jagdeo as we move into election overdrive is that either the presidential pick asserts himself/herself over the PPP and the party’s election campaign or continue with the Medvedev syndrome. But the Medvedev syndrome in the 2020 battle isn’t going to help that candidate. Normal humans vote for a person to lead their country who they feel will be the person in charge. My own opinion is that with the CCJ decision on term limits, we are seeing the slow death of the Medvedev syndrome. Jagdeo may not like it and may not accept this, but his era is over.

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