Education Minister, Patrick Faber, has emerged as the leader of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), but Prime Minister Dean Barrow has reversed his decision to step down ahead of the general elections in November.
“It is my life’s ambition, as you know, to become the leader of this party and to be of service to this party. Of course the only think that can make that further complete is offering my service to the country as the prime minister of this country some day and I am hoping that that is very soon with the historic victory of the UDP that will be in November or whenever the general elections are called,” Faber said after the results were declared late Monday.
His victory is a reversal of February’s results when then national security minister, John Saldivar, won by 119 votes. Faber is believed to have won the leadership of the party by 19 votes.
UDP chairman, Michael Peyrefitte, said 567 delegates cast votes in the election with Faber receiving 286 votes, Saldivar 267 and Elrington receiving 10 votes. There were four rejected ballots.
“So the official tally, given the official tally, the Honourable Patrick Faber is the new party leader elect of the United Democratic Party,” he said.
In February, Saldivar, had been placed on “indefinite suspension” by Prime Minister Barrow as a minister, who also and demanded his resignation as the leader-elect of the UDP amid allegations linking him to a bribery scandal involving an imprisoned American businessman dating back to 2013.
Barrow said then that the suspension would allow for both the government and the police to fully investigate the allegations made during the ongoing trial of the American, Lev Dermen, in the United States.
Barrow said he had earlier warned that any minister implicated in the matter would be dismissed but that Saldivar had continued to maintain his innocence.
In a post on his Facebook page on Monday, Saldivar congratulated Faber saying, “a heartfelt thank you to all of you for your steadfast and loyal support. Against all odds we came close to a magnificent victory for the common people.
“We will remain in the struggle for the small man and woman and we will remain with the United Democratic Party as the best and only option through which meaningful change and progress can be achieved. I congratulate our new Leader, Hon. Patrick Faber.”
The leadership of the party was also contested by Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington and Prime Minister Barrow said he was pleased with the way the election had been conducted.
“Nobody made any complaints about any of the candidates to the ethics committee. All candidates have already run for the party and there is a presumption in those circumstances that you’re fine. So the onus would have been on whoever wished to challenge the eligibility of any of the candidates to make a complaint and nobody did.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Barrow, who had signalled his intention to quit active politics ahead of the next general elections, told reporters he would serve out the remainder of his tenure, while Faber will concentrate on preparing the UDP for the upcoming general elections.
“Well, we would have to talk I suppose, but I would imagine such a person would be bright enough… to know what the constitution says and to know that legally I am in an unassailable position but you know me, ever the modest fellow., Barrow said.
“If it is that whoever wins wishes to come in as prime minister and if that person could get the support of the party for such a move, I would very gladly defer.”
Asked whether he intends to remain on as prime minister right up to the election, Prime Minister Barrow replied “indeed sir, or right up to the end of COVID-19, whichever comes first and the way COVID is behaving, it sure as hell ain’t gonna come before the elections.”
Faber has acknowledged the “very difficult task” ahead of the party adding “it is why our prime minister and party leader remains in office until the end of this term.
“The COVID-19 situation is a very bad one, he is the leader and prime minister while it happened. What would you have to say about him if he would run away and it is the same. We know that it is going to be a daunting task moving forward, any new leader of the country will have a very, very difficult task but we don’t run away from challenges in the U.D.P. We face those challenges and we take them on head-on,” Faber said.