PPP/C unlikely to bargain on confidence motion

-analysts

The ruling PPP/C is unlikely to strike a deal with the opposition to shelve the no-confidence motion filed against the Donald Ramotar administration by the AFC, political analysts say.

The AFC, after the opposition coalition APNU indicated support, on Thursday filed a no-confidence motion against the government with Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs. If passed by the combined opposition, which holds a one-seat majority in the House, the government would be forced to resign and general elections would have to be held within three months.

However, the National Assembly heads into its annual three-month recess from today and the motion is unlikely to be debated until October, when it reconvenes. If passed, general elections could be held early next year.

Leader of APNU David Granger and AFC executives including Vice-Chairman Moses Nagamootoo could not be contacted yesterday on the prospects of a deal that would see the no-confidence motion being shelved. Attorney-General Anil Nandlall told Stabroek News that he was not in a position to comment.

The PPP/C has said that it is prepared for general elections but political analysts are of the view that none of the three political groups in the National Assembly relish the prospect of going back to the polls so soon after 2011, given the financing and organisational challenges this will pose. In addition, the big unknown for all three parties would be the final outcome.

For the PPP/C, the goal would be ensuring that it does not record a result worse than 2011 and the aspiration to recover a majority in the National Assembly. APNU would be looking to become the party with a plurality though it has taken body blows from its recent tumultuous delegates’ congress. For the AFC, the challenge would be to retain the gains it made in the sugar belt, while making inroads into other PPP/C strongholds and tapping into the dissent against APNU in Linden and other places.

It is also possible that the ruling party could pre-empt the motion of no-confidence and call general elections. Another option is the PPP/C remaining in office for the full term but this would require significant concessions to one or both of the other parties and the only likely option would be a government of all the groups in Parliament and executive power-sharing.

Political analyst Christopher Ram told Stabroek News that the opposition parliamentary parties will not of their own accord consider the withdrawal of the no-confidence motion. “For the AFC such an act would be disastrous and for David Granger it would be suicidal,” he said.

“The PPP/C meanwhile is running all over the place on the issue of the motion. In one breath they talk of a legal challenge – an absolute non-starter. In another, they feign bravery and say “bring it on” and “we are not afraid.” If the PPP/C were not afraid of the electorate they would not have done all they have to avoid them [the electorate] in local government elections,” Ram said. “If the PPP/C were to agree to local government elections, constitutional amendments, changes in the electoral laws, the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission and restrictions on the use of state resources by the government, then yes, it would make sense to defer the debate on the motion,” he added, while noting that these are issues that will still have to be addressed, particularly if the PPP/C fails again to win a majority, and even if it does regain the majority in the National Assembly.

“I think those would be key issues for any negotiations on the motion. However, given the PPP/C’s mindset it will prefer to go down with all the untold consequences for Guyana rather than negotiate,” the attorney said. “I recall a top PPP/C leader saying that their party will never negotiate itself out of power. I believe that is truer now than then and I would therefore rate the prospects of the PPP/C agreeing to any deal in which it has to make concessions in exchange for the withdrawal of the motion at zero,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, former PPP/C government minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said that if the PPP seeks to negotiate after refusing to do so for so long, it would be a clear indication that it is unprepared for elections at this stage. “This can lose them support. But the question is: why should the opposition give them more time to be better prepared?” he said.

“To go to the opposition and be rebuffed cannot be sensible for the PPP/C and if it takes this course, it will want it to be relatively secret,” Jeffrey said.

The former minister said that any thought that the opposition will come over as uncompromising is weak when it is the PPP/C’s unwillingness to negotiate that is responsible for the current state of affairs. “The opposition should put everything on the table if the PPP/C approaches them. Shared governance, other constitutional reforms, passage of all their bills and giving positive attention to all motions, local government elections now, procurement [commission] now, and so on,” he said.

“To avoid a backlash if the negotiations go wrong, the opposition will have to say publicly what is being offered and what are their demands. At any stage, secret negotiations should be avoided and proper records of any discussion, even on the phone, kept and discussed with the other side,” Jeffrey asserted. No part should fall for any approach which claims that “this is between me and you or my side and your side,” he said. “This process could be dangerous for both sides but moreso for the PPP/C. Therefore the chances of it suing for negotiations appear slim to me,” he added.

Also weighing in, former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, in his Sunday Stabroek column, noted that the PPP had an opportunity to avoid elections but chose not to accept it. “After the AFC wrote to President Ramotar indicating its intention to table the no-confidence motion, the President dared the AFC to proceed. A subsequent letter by the AFC to the President setting out a ten-point programme for discussion, which could have been the occasion for prolonged engagement, was peremptorily dismissed by the President and the PPP thereafter repeatedly declared its readiness for elections. The PPP and the government cannot therefore be surprised that the motion will now be going forward. In any event the PPP must know that there is a limited longevity for minority governments,” he said.

“Knowing this, it was expected that together with strengthening its machinery, it would have offered goodies to the electorate in order to give it a fighting chance to retrieve its majority. There was no way the opposition could have opposed policies which would have given benefits to the population. It might not have worked but this is the tried and tested strategy of minority governments not wanting or being unable to enter into a coalition. Instead the government decided to operate as if it were the majority. As expected, the opposition did not ‘co-operate.’ Nevertheless, the PPP has stumbled upon a strategy – accusing the opposition of being unpatriotic and of sabotaging developments. But this approach suggests that the PPP seriously believes that its electoral losses in 2011 were due to creaking machinery, which has since been corrected and that as a consequence it will win the elections. We shall see whether the PPP’s analysis was accurate,” the former PPP stalwart said.

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