APNU, AFC should coalesce around constitution reform movement

– Henry Jeffrey

Contending that those who want Guyana to fulfill its potential should focus on unseating the PPP/C government at the next elections, political analyst Henry Jeffrey says that the best chance for this would be an APNU and AFC coalition founded on constitutional reform.

In his Future Notes column in Tuesday’s edition of Stabroek News, Jeffrey said “all those who wish to see Guyana actually fulfilling its potential rather than its resources being drained away to far off places (the Bai Shan Lin affair) for the benefit of others, must now concentrate all their efforts on developing a strategy that would relieve the PPP/C of government at the next elections.”

He said it was shameful that despite the country’s vast resources large numbers of people continue to seek refuge elsewhere.

“Had the PPP/C any intention of alleviating our condition, it would have already established a political framework compatible with sensible growth and development. Indeed, rather than taking the more progressive path, some in its ranks seek to camouflage its determination to hold on to absolute power at all costs with the contention that matters not how the country fares, politicians do not willingly give up or share power”, he argued.

Jeffrey, who served as a PPP/C minister in various portfolios between 1992 and 2008, said that the outright defeat of the ruling party would be highly unlikely unless A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) presented a single list of electors at the next elections.

He addressed the dilemma that the AFC will face in considering a pre-election coalition with APNU. He noted in July 2010, the AFC congress decided that although the party was committed to forming alliances with likeminded groups and individuals, it would not be doing so with the PPP/C or APNU. This, he said, was ostensibly in recognition of the fact that the AFC was a party of the future and would be unable to maintain its core principles if it allied with either of the two.

“The truer reason then and now (since the position of the party does not appear to have changed) is that the party is focused upon wrenching votes from the PPP/C and believes that any association with APNU will bring with it the historical baggage of the PNCR”, Jeffrey asserted.

He said it appears that the AFC’s position on a pre-election coalition with APNU has not altered and the generally indifferent performance of the leadership of the latter and the recent events at the PNC congress may well make APNU an even less alluring coalition partner for the AFC. However, Jeffrey said that largely because of ethnic political allegiances, APNU remains a credible political force.

He said that what seriously hampers Guyana is a constitutional arrangement that does not properly fit the ethnic configurations of the country. He argued that much of the concern about transparency, corruption, inefficiencies, etc, is the product of unaccountability founded on regime longevity.

“For me, what Guyana needs more at this stage is constitutional change to establish mechanisms that will, inter alia, provide for the establishment of a government of national unity, for a stronger separation of powers and give greater independence to constituencies.

“But I do not believe that any single party in the opposition could do sufficiently well to deprive the PPP/C of the greater multiple. Therefore, I agree with those who hold that if we are to avoid another stalemate after the next elections, some kind of pre-election agreement is necessary”, Jeffrey asserted.

He posited that APNU and the AFC should lead a movement which has as its objective significant constitutional changes within a specified timeframe if it wins the elections. He said that in terms of personnel and operations, the movement should be constructed in a broad-based manner with a strong civil society presence. After the specified period of the government, perhaps three years, each political party could then participate independently in the post-reform polls.

“I believe that if approached sensibly, such an arrangement has tremendous possibilities. It could severely limit the fallout the AFC fears from an association with APNU. It is also more likely to catch the public imagination and create a tipping point in terms of voter turnout to support the reforms.

“Most people, even many PPP/C supporters, are sufficiently sophisticated to know that the present government does not have the capacity to effectively run Guyana by itself and that our persistent poor condition and insecurities are largely a result of this incapacity. Far from losing the AFC support, a movement with the major goal of reform is likely to win significant support”, Jeffrey argued.

With the AFC’s no-confidence motion against the government lodged at Parliament office and likely to come up in October, analysts have been pointing out that the AFC will face renewed questions about whether it should form a joint slate with APNU before the elections or go it alone as it did in 2011. If the latter option is chosen, political pundits say the PPP/C will have a good chance of retaining plurality and thereby the Presidency.


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