Coalition government and shared governance are different concepts

Dear Editor,

I refer to Dr Joey Jagan’s letter titled ‘Shared coalition governance is the only way to go?’ (SN, June 21).

The learned doctor used the phrases, “coalition shared governance” in the first paragraph and “shared coalition governance” in the fourth and final paragraphs, but I have to ask if he really knows that the concept of coalition government is not the same as shared governance? There is nothing in his letter to suggest that Dr Jagan understands that these are two very different concepts. Does the editor of the Stabroek News have some culpability in helping the doctor sow confusion about these two vastly different concepts?

The father of this idea of shared governance is Dr David Hinds. It simply calls for the sharing of executive power in government among parties that won seats in the national elections – that is to say, if the PPP, PNC and AFC are the only parties that win seats, then there would be a formula by which these three parties would share the presidency and Cabinet portfolios. In Dr Hinds’s scheme of things there would be no need for a functional opposition party or parties. This is not the same thing as coalition government.

Coalition government comes about only when no single party gets the required 51 per cent of the votes or seats in the parliament. In this case two or more parties coalesce to produce a 51 per cent majority and are therefore allowed to form the government. Examples are the PNC-UF coalition of 1964 (Guyana) and recently the Conservative-Liberal coalition in Britain.

According to Dr Hinds, the main reason for his propagation of shared governance is because of a unique scenario in Guyana, namely, a culture that produces excessively high rates of ethnic voting for ethnic parties, and that this system will all but guarantee the re-election of the Indo-ethnic PPP in perpetuity because Indians are the  majority group. This leaves the African-Guyanese at 30 per cent of the population seething at their permanent exclusion from political power.

I have always said that Dr Hinds’s cause is not without merit and is based on a genuine grievance, but I have always opposed his idea of shared governance, for the simple reason that his idea is the very antithesis of democracy. Ralph Seeram (KN, Jan 23 and June 5) in two published letters has argued persuasively that shared governance is both unworkable and impractical. His letters should be required reading for all readers who are interested in studying and understanding the subject.

Dr Jagan in his letter of June 21 wrote: “Any government formed after this election should include Mr Granger and some of his comrades if he loses.” On what basis should Mr Granger and his comrades be included? Does the constitution allow for the inclusion of the losing party in the event of another party winning 51 per cent of the votes?

The architect of shared governance, Dr David Hinds, should realize that in a democracy, parties have to devise campaign strategies and platforms aimed at winning elections. The PNC has no platform and no strategy to win an election. If the PNC receives all the African votes in the country, it will not be enough to produce a 51 per cent winning tally of votes, so do they have an Indian strategy to win Indian votes? Or Amerindian strategy to win Amerindian votes? Both Messrs Robert Corbin and David Granger have (1) insisted on projecting an African image for the PNC (only an African can be leader); (2) told the Indian constituency that their party has nothing to apologize for in relation to the PNC’s 24-year-long dictatorial and oppressive rule. How will such positions help the PNC to open up a conversation with the Indian constituency whose vote would comprise at least the 5-6 per cent they desperately need to win over? Do these two principles look like a winning campaign strategy? Or are they core ideological principles of the party? Dr Hinds should realize that the real cause of the problem he seeks to address lies in the PNC’s intransigence and failure to change and adapt to new ways of doing politics and winning elections in a new, democratic environment. A study of the PNC’s internal party politics would show that there has been a significant movement for change in the consciousness and policies of the faction led by Dr Van West Charles. Dr Hinds should know that Dr Charles’s attempts at reforming the party have lost out to Mr Corbin’s faction.

Mr Corbin’s ideas of designing a campaign involve no focus studies, no specific strategies directed at targeted constituencies, no specific messaging, no understanding of the electoral maths and no party polling and testing of strategies. In other words just follow the old template which is nothing but targeting the African constituency only. Mr Corbin’s idea of campaign politics is limited to an old template of having an African head of party and a few Indians as window-dressing and then claim the party is multi-racial. This template is long broken, useless and should be replaced. Mr Corbin alone, of all the upper echelon leaders of the PNC, insists on holding on to an obsolete template. Another useless campaign strategy is manifested by party writers Lurlene Nestor and Archer, as well as Malcolm Harripaul. They groan literally in every letter about the corruption of the ruling party, never about developing a strategy to communicate with the Indian constituency whose votes they need to defeat the ruling party.

For now the PNC electoral campaign is engaged in another exercise of utter futility – a rerun of 1992, 1996, 2001 and 2006. What can you say of Dr Hinds and Dr Joey Jagan?  Dr Hinds has no faith in democracy – the idea of winning votes across all racial constituencies. Joey Jagan? Well, he is utterly confused about what shared governance is or is not, and he is trying to confuse all the other voters with his favourite word – nonsense.

Yours faithfully,
Mike Persaud
New York

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