APNU in a tight spot over no-confidence vote support, say analysts

APNU’s votes will decide if a no-confidence motion against the government succeeds but it is in a tight spot over whether or not to support the move, according to analysts and any decision on a pre-electoral alliance for the elections that would arise should the motion pass, lies with the AFC.

APNU’s parliamentary votes are needed to pass a no-confidence vote against the government which would trigger general elections within three months. The coalition has yet to decide on whether it will support the motion which the AFC is pushing for. On Thursday, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan in a letter to President Donald Ramotar said that the party saw no alternative but to move a no-confidence motion against his administration citing what he said was the unauthorized withdrawal of billions of dollars from the Consolidated Fund. Ramotar has responded that such a motion is “completely baseless and spurious” and he would be prepared for the consequences.

Contacted by Stabroek News yesterday, APNU leader David Granger emphasised that the coalition has yet to see a draft of the AFC’s no-confidence motion. He noted that the two sides had discussed the motion and agreed on the way forward including moving to have Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh sent to the National Assembly’s Privileges Committee.

However, he said, APNU’s shadow cabinet has not discussed general elections but will do so when they meet. In light of the AFC’s renewed push for the no-confidence motion, “the shadow cabinet will have to examine the implications and make a decision,” Granger said.

APNU parliamentarian James Bond in a letter in Stabroek News last week said that there is no point in having a no-confidence vote unless the AFC and APNU go to the national polls under one leader. “I…will not attach myself to that [no-confidence] wagon unless the AFC and APNU after attaching themselves to this wagon decide that they would contest the next general elections with one representative of the list,” he wrote. “It would be utter foolishness for there to be a vote of no confidence in the House and when we are out of the House we divorce and go our separate ways,” Bond said.

Granger told Stabroek News that APNU has always been open to inclusionary democracy and would welcome enhanced collaboration with the AFC. However, he said, the question of a pre-electoral alliance must be directed to the AFC. “The AFC will have to make a decision on that matter,” he said. For the 2011 general elections, the AFC had refused to align itself with either party. Ramjattan could not be contacted yesterday.

Meantime, analysts have said that APNU faces a quandary in deciding whether or not to support the no-confidence motion.

“I believe that since the 2011 elections, support for the APNU/PNC is presently at its lowest ebb. Contrary to what its supporters expected, the grouping has not been able to either bring them any real benefits or even appear to be making strident efforts at doing so,” former PPP government minister Dr Henry Jeffery told Stabroek News. He supported a commentator’s statement that the PNC has become a shadow of its former self.

In relation to Bond’s statement on an alliance, he said that the parliamentarian’s position appears to rest on the belief that if the two parties go to the poll as some kind of a coalition, they will either keep or increase their collective support. “However, there is another quite credible position that if they unite in this way for campaign purposes the AFC will become indistinguishable from the PNC/APNU and will be tarnished by the latter’s historical baggage,” Jeffrey said.

He posited that this will make it easier for the PPP/C to win back its support from the AFC in its traditional areas of Regions 6 and 5, which, he noted were the areas where movement from the PPP resulted in the present slight parliamentary majority for the opposition.

“APNU is in a hard place: a Catch-22 situation. As the results of 2006 and 2011 indicate, the AFC has been a stopping place for those disillusioned with the two major parties and given the disunity which now exists in the PNC and its largely ineffectual stance against the regime, maybe the AFC stands to gain from APNU if elections are called immediately,” Jeffrey asserted. “On the other hand, notwithstanding our ethnic voting, if APNU does not support the AFC’s no-confidence motion it would appear even more effete and might also lose significant support to the AFC,” he said.

Civil society activist Christopher Ram said that whether APNU should support the vote and whether they will support the vote are two different issues. “The government blatantly violates the most fundamental principle of the constitution – the exercise of sovereignty by the people through democratic organs as set out in Article 1 of the Constitution. This alone should be the basis for a vote,” he said.

“Indeed impeachment proceedings against the President would be in order for this crude

violation of people’s rights and the oath he took to uphold the constitution,” Ram declared.

He said that the PNC which dominates APNU lost power over elections and it would be strange that it would not wish to take such constitutional measures to ensure that the violation of the democratic process is brought to an end. “Whether the APNU will do so is another matter. I am unable to say who it listens to and whether the public outrage will make any difference,” he said.

In relation to Bond’s statement, Ram noted that the parliamentarian is a protégé of Granger and said that one may assume that he would at least have shared his view and letter on the vote with the Opposition Leader. “I hope I am misreading his sentiment but it seems to me that Mr Bond does not think that the egregious conduct of the government should be the basis of the vote but rather whether the AFC would join with the APNU to have a single leader,” he said.

“I would be very interested to hear from Mr Bond whether he would support and advocate for that leader to be independent of both parties and whether he thinks the PNCR would agree to such an arrangement. I would be interested too on his views of the common platform on which his party is prepared to go into new elections and the post-elections arrangements,” he said.

Meantime, former PPP stalwart Ralph Ramkarran, in his column appearing today, noted that APNU has not taken a position on the proposed no-confidence motion. Some time ago, however, when there were hints that the government might be calling elections, Granger had stated quite clearly that APNU was ready for elections if called, he noted.

“It is not known what considerations would now prevail in determining whether or not to support the AFC’s proposed motion. Surely one factor would have to be the enormous resources which would have to be raised for elections. In the absence of a credible explanation to its financial backers of how elections at this time will resolve the political stalemate in the country, raising adequate funds may pose a problem,” Ramkarran said.

“More importantly, if APNU contemplates declining support for the motion, it will have to decide what it will tell its supporters when they ask why would APNU want to keep a PPP/C Government in office. If APNU cannot figure out a response to such a question, then we might have an election on our hands,” he asserted.

The former Speaker of the National Assembly said that the proposed no confidence motion could not have come as a surprise to the government. “In circumstance such as these anywhere in the world, governments do not survive. There is a minority government in office, without a commitment of support from any section of the opposition. There is also no compromise on any significant issue engaging the attention of the National Assembly,” he said.

“The issue is not merely the elections if they happen; and the AFC will be courting disapproval if they engage in such sustained public foreplay without consummation. The issue is what happens after. There would hardly be a problem if the PPP/C wins an absolute majority. But if the PPP/C wins only a plurality as in 2011, as many observers expect, would the same stalemate and gridlock continue, with more years of marking time and no progress in the country? All right-thinking people will recoil at the thought,” he said.


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