Post-Congress perspectives and legitimate expectations

Even if the PNCR had been minded to support the proposed AFC motion of no confidence against the government, it is not now likely. The controversies at its Congress were publicly manifested in allegations of violence and election rigging. These same allegations have bedevilled the PNCR for decades. Many fear that party because of it. While there was no violence at the Congress and the leadership has dismissed allegations of vote rigging, the firing of a gunshot and the loud protestations of disenfranchisement were the worst kind of public relations disaster for the PNCR.

While the PNCR is in disarray and the AFC’s motion of no confidence now appearing as if it will go nowhere, the PPP’s consistent strategy gives it renewed comfort. It knows that it has a minority government and is employing every strategy to keep it functioning. It has rejected out of hand any form of coalition. It intends to stay in office for as long as possible. Whenever this is no longer possible, it will dissolve the National Assembly and call elections, which the PPP/C believes it will win. This is a fixed strategy from which it is not deviating. It has been paying dividends in terms of retaining office.

Because of the anti-money laundering legislation pending in the National Assembly and the likelihood that the opposition will not support it, the government had in mind the possibility that it may have to call elections. FATF’s postponement of its review to October gives the government a further lease of life. Even if the pronouncement against Guyana is negative, but its potential impact negligible, the government may decide to weather the storm and hold on to office for as long as possible. If it sustains itself in office for four years, that would be a remarkable achievement.

so140112ralphThere is no reason why the government cannot now proceed to hold local government elections since a decision as to general elections is not likely to be taken until next year. There is therefore the second half of this year during which elections can be held. This would divert attention from some unwelcome issues. It will also occupy the energies and resources of everyone until the end of the year. This is the sensible thing to do and it will relieve the government of lot of pressure from the opposition, civil society and the diplomatic community.

The opposition’s agenda in the meantime, if it was ever coherent one in the first place, has fizzled out. It has rejected major infrastructural work such as the Amaila Hydroelectric Project and the airport project for no good reason. It has been forced to support enough of the budget to keep the government alive. Those portions that it rejects, the government implements anyway by spending sums not initially approved. The bills that it has passed have not been assented to by the President. Its parliamentary resolutions have been ignored. The Public Procurement Commission has not been appointed. The AFC’s no confidence motion appears stillborn. Apart from voting down the government in the National Assembly, it now has no other strategy.

The opposition now has the challenge of devising a new strategy. Enormously popular, with a great mobilizing capacity, would be the call for national unity through a coalition government, if placed at the top of its political agenda. It must have dawned on the opposition, and all Guyana by now, that full emancipation and liberation cannot be achieved unless all are fully represented in and have a stake in the governance of Guyana. The opposition must know that the majoritarian impulse in liberal democratic theory is obstructive of the ‘legitimate expectation(s)’ (to adopt a phrase from the legal profession) of large minorities in any country. If one section of Guyana feels excluded from governance, the other section(s) is insecure and the whole of Guyana is destabilised. We experienced just that in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 1950 PPP tried to create a united political movement. It failed. Jagan’s proposal of a National Patriotic Front and a ‘winner does not take all’ system of 1978 as a permanent feature of a democratic governance structure being the only means that could bring legitimacy to the aspirations of all our people, failed. Burnham tried in 1985 only when conditions forced him to and when it was too late and it failed. Despite Desmond Hoyte’s negativity after 1992, the PPP failed to place it on the political agenda between 1992 and 1997. I take responsibility for my own default in this.

After all these decades during which the ‘legitimate expectation(s)’ of the Guyanese people has been thwarted, it is not now going to be a gift from anyone and is not going to be met without a large-scale, national and sustained struggle. The demand for a system of governance in Guyana which empowers all Guyanese must be elevated squarely onto the top of the political and civic agenda as the dominant political and civic issue of the day facing Guyana, requiring a united, national effort. Let us close the circle on Emancipation!

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