Talks on a proposed pro-democracy alliance for the May 11 general elections are at a critical stage with APNU and the AFC discussing a plan for a rotating presidency even as both are skittish about which party gets the first turn should the alliance comes to fruition and win.
“As of right now, it is just dead even 50/50,” a source with knowledge of the discussions told Stabroek News yesterday. Stabroek News was told that the AFC has expressed concern about the impact to its support base of mainly Indo-Guyanese if their candidate is not given the presidency post while APNU has made it clear that the coalition feels that yielding to a request for the post on the grounds of race is hypocritical to its position of national unity.
According to the source, it has been proposed that the two parties rotate the presidency with APNU taking the first three years and the AFC taking the last two should the pro-democracy alliance come to fruition and win the elections. Discussions on this will continue this week.
Stabroek News was unable to reach AFC General Secretary David Patterson yesterday for comment on the talks and APNU’s lead negotiator Carl Greenidge would only say that they are meeting and will meet again in the coming days.
However, the source told Stabroek News that as of right now, there is a 50/50 chance that the talks could go either way in terms of whether or not an alliance would be formed. The source said that the AFC has said that this Saturday, the team will take the proposals to their constituents and depending on what happens at that meeting, will decide on whether or not to be a part of an alliance.
The source related that the AFC negotiators have said that they want to be able to tell their supporters that the AFC will have the presidential post. But, given APNU’s position, according to the source, one proposal is that should the alliance come to fruition, it could head into general elections with an APNU presidential candidate and an AFC prime ministerial candidate. Should the alliance win, the posts would be rotated at the end of three years.
However, the level of trust has become a stumbling block, particularly as it relates to who gets the presidency first. APNU is adamant that they get the first round for the presidency, Stabroek News was told. The source said that trust between the two sides is not where it should be and each party fears that once in office, the other partner could turn into a “different animal.”
The source emphasised that politics is a compromise and the matter cannot be done in haste and it is better to spend some time and get it right. While expressing optimism, the source said that the overall agreement for the coalition has to be tightly documented so as to give each other a certain level of security and help to build trust.
The source also noted that while there has been much speculation in the state media about the talks, a lot of what is being said is false and they believe that it is just gamesmanship to influence the outcome of the talks in a way that the PPP wants.
As talks continue this week, the Saturday meeting of the AFC National Executive Committee would determine whether that party would go into the elections in alliance with APNU. According to the source, it was stressed that the AFC has to get the blessing of their constituents before making the final decision.
Stabroek News reported Patterson as saying last week that the AFC has delivered to APNU a detailed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which includes the possible size of an alliance cabinet and political structure and possible campaign methodology and modality for a joint campaign. The MoU also covers important areas for improved governance of Guyana, matters of urgent and comprehensive constitution reform, reorganisation and improvement of both the offices of the President and Prime Minister and a priority set of developmental policies and a timeframe for delivery by any joint administration.
Patterson had said that the AFC intends to report its recommended course of action to its National Executive Committee on February 14th. “This mission can no longer be delayed and must not be hampered by narrow personal, ethnic or partisan interest, but be driven and embolden our leaders to take patriotic positions in the interest of Guyana; all of us are required to make some sacrifice to this end,” he had said.
Talks between the AFC and APNU have been ongoing over the past two weeks as the two parties, with members of civil society attempt to forge a pro-democracy alliance to unseat the PPP/C at upcoming general elections.
Many observers believe that an AFC and APNU coalition could claim office from the PPP/C after they attracted more votes in total than the ruling party at the last general elections. The PPP/C, however, as the party with the single most votes, managed to retain the presidency although it lost the majority in the National Assembly.
In early December, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan stated that the AFC is prepared to lead a pro-democracy alliance of progressive forces, inclusive of the opposition coalition APNU, to remove the PPP/C government from office. Ramjattan had also indicated that the “progressive forces” should comprise civic groups, workers unions, and political forces, including even disaffected PPP leaders and members. He had further emphasised that the AFC must lead this alliance.