Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 12:53 UK

Plaid's presidency up for grabs

Elfyn Llwyd and Dafydd Iwan
Both Elfyn Llwyd and Dafydd Iwan are bidding for the presidency
As Plaid Cymru prepares to choose a new president, Welsh affairs editor Vaughan Roderick examines the contest, and the nature of the role in the party's assembly government power-sharing environment.

There was time when the presidency of Plaid Cymru was a prize worth winning.

The president was, in effect, the party leader and the simple title "llywydd y blaid" ('Plaid president' in Welsh) carried real clout, particularly in Welsh-speaking Wales.

When Gwynfor Evans gave up the presidency after three decades in charge, the battle between Dafydd Wigley and Dafydd Elis Thomas to succeed him was bitter and hard-fought and set the party's direction for years to follow.

Today the post is much-diminished.

Plaid Cymru has an assembly leader, a parliamentary leader and a European leader as well and a clutch of council leaders.

While "president" may be still be a valued title, the real clout belongs to the overall leader and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Ieuan Wyn Jones
Ieuan Wyn Jones is the overall leader of Plaid Cymru

The job of Plaid Cymru president these days is more about organisation and enthusing the membership than it is about providing political leadership.

The incumbent president Dafydd Iwan, the Gwynedd singer and businessman, is running on his record pointing to the party's increased membership and electoral successes in the local elections to justify his candidacy.

He has also promised to bring the Plaid into the 21st century by using social networking sites to build the membership.

Mr Iwan's opponent, Elfyn Llwyd, the Meirionnydd Nant Conwy MP, is already the party's parliamentary leader and believes more can be done to invigorate the party grassroots.

In his manifesto, he calls for a reinvigoration of the party's intellectual life and an emphasis on community politics.

While both candidates have concentrated on organisational and national issues, the contest has been coloured by the local politics of Gwynedd - Plaid Cymru's heartland and the county where both men live.

Mr Llwyd made no secret of his dismay at the Plaid-controlled council's mishandling of a controversial school reorganisation plan - proposals that cost the party its majority, and Mr Iwan his council seat at last May's election.

Some of Mr Llwyd's supporters believe that the party paid a heavy political price for the Gwynedd failure allowing its opponents to portray a generally successful round of elections as a disaster for the party.

The result of the election for who will take the post is due to be announced on 7 September.

Llwyd bids for Plaid presidency
20 Jun 08 |  Wales politics
Plaid loses majority in Gwynedd
02 May 08 |  North West Wales

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