The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday announced that it is ready to participate in the search for a broad opposition coalition to challenge the PPP at next year’s general election, saying that the country urgently needs profound political change.
The party welcomed the recent interest shown by some parties in the prospect of a broad coalition, which it said should also include organisations and individuals from civil society.
In a statement, the WPA said while it would participate in a search without pre-conditions, it would insist on certain principles. It explained that “parties and individuals should not use the coalition to advance their own or their party’s agenda above the need of the country.” Further, it noted that no party or parties, however strong, should act in a “hegemonic or opportunistic” manner. “We insist that the process be driven by a commitment to transparency, accountability and respect,” it declared.
Addressing the prospective leadership of the coalition, it said it would insist that the issue be handled with utmost care and that in the long run its composition should be dictated by the challenges of the current situation.
The party’s statement comes in the wake of the recent exploration of an electoral alliance by some of the parliamentary opposition parties. Already, the main opposition PNCR has stated it is committed to develop “without precondition” a working understanding with any individual or entity willing to negotiate in good faith on a platform to transform the country. Party leader Robert Corbin has also said he was not interested in leading the coalition and that while the PNCR is committed to taking a leading role, it would not play a domineering role or insist that a PNCR member be the presidential candidate for the group. The AFC, meanwhile, has adopted a more cautious approach, saying no decision had been made on whether it would participate in such an initiative. The party did, however, recently engage Barbadian strategist Hartley Henry to brief local opposition leaders on the negotiations of the pact that led to the formation of the People’s Partnership-the opposition coalition which won a landslide victory in Trinidad and Tobago.
The WPA noted that from its birth as a pressure group in 1974, it has held firmly to the position that only the broadest possible coalition of forces could move Guyana forward. This principle, it explained, inform-ed its efforts to put together broad alliances to oppose the dictatorial regime, which had taken root during the 1970s, and to argue for a government of national unity to replace it. It said since 1992 it has continued to advocate and work for a power sharing alternative to the present one-party form of governance.
It described the prospect of a coalition as a significant intervention though it noted that it is not a solution to the country’s problem or an ideal power sharing arrangement. “Ideally, we feel that the PPP must be part of any power sharing government, but the PPP must decide whether it wants to work as part of a team or continue on the path it has chosen since 1992,” it said.
The party was particularly critical of the PPP, saying that after 18 years at the helm it has not lived up to the citizens’ expectations of a government that succeeded a dictatorship. “[The PPP] has failed to transform the democratic opening of 1992 and goodwill of the majority of the population into a truly democratic society in which all races and classes feel secure,” it said. “Instead we have witnessed a systematic criminalization of the state, a breakdown in the rule of law, an upsurge in official corruption, a rise in violence at all levels of the society and a return to the politics of race, racial discrimination, party paramountcy, racial and political clientelism and political intimidation.” As a result, the WPA contended that the country urgently needs change, adding that if the PPP remains in office by itself or by a select group of its choice, the country will slide further into “hopelessness” and “chaos,” which would accelerate “the return to a full-fledged dictatorship.”
The party also reiterated its opposition to any attempt to change the constitution to accommodate a third term for President Bharrat Jagdeo, noting that it would be an unacceptable precedent. “We feel that to foist President Jagdeo on the country beyond his constitutional term is nothing short of political arrogance,” it said, adding that while it cannot choose the PPP’s presidential candidate, there is a duty to protect the letter and spirit of the Constitution. It noted a recent report that some opposition parliamentarians may be willing to support such a move and said it would take the gravest view of opposition groups who help to facilitate such a political scheme.